Summer is usually too hot for soup. That is until I remember how hot it is in Thailand. When we lived in China, one of the things I fell in love with from the very beginning was Coconut Thai Chicken Soup. Tom Kha Gai is rich with fresh coconut milk laced with lime and lemongrass. The chicken is usually boneless thigh meat boiled in the broth, making it not only one of the tastiest soups on earth to eat, but one of the easiest to prepare.
Made with fresh ingredients, Tom Kha Gai is as healthy as it is comforting. The most perfect time to make and eat this soup is on a steamy hot summer day with the rain pouring down outside. It’s the perfect excuse to actually enjoy the sticky climate here in NC during the hottest months of the year.
Most places around here add way too much sugar to this dish. There was no sugar added to the soup I had in Thailand, nor at the Simply Thai restaurant chain in Shanghai. For this reason I love to leave the sugar out, crank up the lime and add a splash of Coconut Aminos to make up the difference.
In truth, the real Tom Kha Gai can be quite hot. This recipe is not hot. But you can add, dried hot chili peppers or cayenne pepper to increase the heat.
I buy lemongrass at Whole Foods. I also had to watch this video to learn how to cut it. You will need one stalk. Don’t eat the lemongrass though as it might upset your stomach. Just leave the pieces in the bottom of your bowl or strain them out before serving.
Another reason this is fast to make is that the ginger used to season the coconut milk and chicken stock is cut into thick quarter-sized pieces – about 6 – and they too are thrown into the broth as it simmers. You can certainly eat the ginger, but you might not like it in such large chunks. I also leave them in the bottom of my bowl.
Now, one more tip before beginning. I love the tart flavor and so I added the juice of a whole lime. To balance that, I added Celtic sea salt that the original recipes did not call for. The recipe below will not call for juice from the whole lime, but you can add up to this if you love the soup on the tart side.
The brands I like the best — because they have the least number of additives are listed below.
- Red Boat Fish Sauce – made in Vietnam with only anchovy and sea salt
- Thai Kitchen green curry paste
- Native Forest Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk Classic (Solidifies in the can, this is not a problem)
- Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos – Tastes like soy sauce but with a slightly sweeter flavor
- 1 (13.5 oz) can Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk - Classic
- 2 cups Organic Chicken Stock
- 6 slices of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into quarter-size rounds or ovals
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, peeled with outer leaves removed and sliced
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces or strips
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (I used shitake, but porcini are fine too)
- 1½ Tablespoons fresh lime juice - can use up to one whole lime if you like it really tart
- 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce (Red Boat Brand)
- 1½ teaspoons Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste
- 1 - 2 teaspoons Coconut Aminos
- ½ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and basil (optional)
- In a very large skillet on the stove, add the coconut milk (it may be partially solid and that is fine), the chicken stock, the lemongrass slices and the ginger slices.
- Bring to a boil.
- Then add the uncooked chicken pieces, the mushrooms, the lime juice, fish sauce, curry paste and coconut aminos and sea salt.
- Simmer on med low for about 10 minutes or until the chicken pieces are opaque and cooked through.
- Serve in large bowls with garish if desired.
Don't eat the lemongrass! Either strain it out or leave in the bottom of your bowl.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and/or fresh basil if desired.
Hope you enjoy this dish that takes me back to another place, but seems to compliment the sultry days of summer right here at home.
What’s your favorite dish that takes you to another time or place? Love to hear your favorite food travel story!