- Meat and poultry
- Popular chicken
- Easy chicken
Thai soups come in an amazing array of colours and spices. You'll start by putting your Thai paste together the day before to be used in an array of Thai food classics such as curries, broths and noodles. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
7 people made this
- For the Thai paste
- 300g green Thai chillies
- 10g palm sugar
- 1 thumb-sized piece root ginger
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 2 limes, juiced
- 30ml fish sauce
- For the broth
- 5 shallots, chopped
- 1 chicken breast fillet, shredded
- 2 tablespoons Thai paste
- 100ml rice wine
- 1L chicken stock
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 50g rice noodles
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 (5cm) piece leek, shredded
- finely chopped coriander to taste
- soy sauce, for serving
- chilli flakes, for serving
MethodPrep:1hr ›Cook:15min ›Extra time:12hr resting › Ready in:13hr15min
- The day before you make the broth, add all ingredients for the Thai paste to a hand blender and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer into a saucepan, bring to the simmer and cook off the excess liquid. Store in a plastic container in the fridge.
- For the broth: Sweat off the 5 chopped shallots in a saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes. Add shredded chicken breast and Thai paste and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes before deglazing the pan with the rice wine. Next, pour over the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
- To serve: Add noodles to the boiling broth and cook for 2 minutes before adding the shredded vegetables and coriander. Serve with a good quality soy sauce and chilli flakes to be added to taste by each diner.
See it on my blog
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Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) Recipe
Tom Kha Gai (also known as Thai Coconut Soup) is a delicious soup with coconut milk, chicken broth and a variety of vegetables and spices.
I’ve ordered Tom Kha Gai from several different Thai restaurants and have loved it every time. To make this nourishing soup at home you’ll need to seek out a few uncommon ingredients from your local Asian market. Don’t let that discourage you from making this dish. It’s well worth the effort, I promise!
If you love Thai soups I highly recommend you check the book, Thai Soup Secret by my friend Craig Fear!
The Thai people have a well kept secret. For hundreds of years, they’ve known about the healing power of their traditional soups. Over the course of several trips to Thailand, Nutritional Therapist Craig Fear, realized there were so many simple, delicious and healthy Thai soups that were unknown to most people in the West. He set about sampling, photographing, and collecting dozens of soup recipes that are easy re-create in western kitchens. The result is the Thai Soup Secret!
The Thai Soup Secret includes 40 recipes for medicinal broths, congees and authentic soups, all of which will help you progress towards a healthier life. Best of all, of the recipes are designed to be simple, without hours of preparation or long lists of hard to find ingredients.
Besides being geared towards health and wellness The Thai Soup Secret is also for anyone who just loves Thai food! If a trip to Thailand is not on your agenda anytime soon then this book will be your next best option for discovering the wonderful world of Thai soups!
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Tom Kha Gai Recipe (ต้มข่าไก่) – A Tutorial for Beginners
I’d waited two years to introduce Tom Kha Gai (RTGS: tom kha kai) (ต้มข่าไก่), one of the most loved Thai dishes of all time, on this blog because — and this probably won’t make a lot of sense — I’ve loved it so much and for so long that I didn’t know how to write about it. I still don’t. And while some dishes, e.g. Pad Thai (which is even more popular), have been left out mainly due to apathy, this one had been put on hold solely due to fear. (Um, not anymore. On November 27th, 2011, I published my Pad Thai recipe.)
Tom Kha Gai isn’t just any dish it’s one of my top five most favorite dishes in the world, Thai or otherwise. At a risk of taking anthropomorphism of food a bit too far, I felt that if I let myself write about Tom Kha Gai with the kind of unbridled affection from the depth of my bowels, I’d bore — or scare — you. Yet, if I held back, I’d be remiss for not giving the dish the love it deserves.
Overwhelmed with affection for this soup, I’ll write in numbered points.
Sliced paper thin, tender galangal tips provide crunch and herbal aroma to this dish.
1. Tom Kha Gai is a soup made of chicken (Gai) cooked (Tom) in coconut milk which has been infused with galangal (Kha), lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.
2. Tom Kha Gai is seasoned primarily with lime juice and fish sauce. Palm or coconut sugar is not necessary as the natural sweetness of coconut is enough for me. In fact, I find cloyingly sweet Tom Kha Gai kind of disgusting, though not as vile as Tom Kha Gai seasoned with lemon juice or vinegar.
Since the purpose at hand is infusion, the entire lemongrass stalk, even the fibrous part, can be used.
3. In our household when I was growing up, Tom Kha Gai was made with bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken that have been cooked until tender. Coconut cream (the “head” of coconut milk or หัวกะทิ) would be added toward the end along with the fresh herbs, followed by fresh bird’s eye chilies and fresh cilantro. The broth isn’t so thick and creamy, yet it is very flavorful due to the chicken bones. Some street vendors also throw chicken innards, feet, and congealed blood into the mix. Rarely would you find that kind of Tom Kha Gai at a Thai restaurant overseas. Most of the time, you’ll get thick and creamy coconut broth with friendly boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s the version I’m presenting here. You just have to employ a different cooking method to make up for the loss of savoriness in the broth.
Part of your mise en place: smashed lemongrass, torn kaffir lime leaves, sliced galangal, smashed chilies
4. Some restaurants have taken to adding roasted chili oil or sometimes Nam Prik Pao (Thai chili jam) to Tom Kha Gai just as they do to Tom Yam. It’s a bit strange to my eye and tongue, and I don’t recall ever seeing it made that way in Thailand growing up or even now.
5. Tom Kha Gai is always relegated to the “soup” category in cookbooks and on restaurant menus. Here’s an annoying, hair-splitting, philosophical question: is everything broth-y a ‘soup’? Is the “soup” designation based on its appearance or the way in which it is served and consumed? You decide. The fact is that Tom Kha Gai, like most Thai dishes — soupy or not — are almost always served with rice as an entrée, as part of the whole meal ensemble and not as a stand-alone. [That little bowl of Tom Yam or Tom Kha Gai which your local Thai restaurant serves you with a couple of mini spring rolls as part of your lunch special is a westernized practice.]
6. How do I eat Tom Kha Gai? (I delusionally assume you care to find out.) This freaks out pretty much every American friend who has dined with me at various Thai restaurants in the US: I usually order a serving of Tom Kha Gai from the dinner menu which usually comes with rice, dump the rice into the Tom Kha Gai bowl, give it a stir, and eat it like that. The one-bowl approach is not a sophisticated (or traditional) way of eating Tom Kha Gai, but I like it that way. Regardless, eating this dish with rice is a common practice. Tom Kha Gai is, after all, an entree — a soup entree to be eaten with rice.
Straw mushroom is my favorite, but oyster (or white button) works too. Anything but shiitake!
7. The recipe which I’m sharing with you is a compromise between the traditional/old-fashioned-rustic Tom Kha Gai (with bone-in and skin-on hunks of chicken and gnarly, curling chicken feet flailing about in the pot) and the kind made by dissolving some bottled Tom Kha paste in coconut milk. If you don’t like bones in your soup, don’t feel guilty. Likewise, if you absolutely cannot find fresh galangal (without which Tom Kha isn’t Tom Kha), fresh lemongrass, and fresh kaffir lime leaves, don’t feel bad about using the paste. It’s still better than using dried galangal, dried lemongrass, and dried kaffir lime leaves which, from my experience, yields probably the most disgusting Tom Kha Gai — if you can even call it that — I’ve ever had any time anywhere. Broth infused with the dried version of those herbs tastes like really bad herbal medicine.
8. The problem with boneless, skinless chicken breast meat is that it’s susceptible to being overcooked. Your broth could be seasoned well, but if your chicken is tough and rubbery, that takes the joy out of the whole experience. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are much better, if you ask me. But if you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, be sure to slice the meat against the grain (though, as you can see from the pictures, I broke my own rule …) and cook it very, very gently as if you’re poaching the chicken meat. Chef Michael Pardus shows you how to poach shrimp the right way in the video below, but the concept applies to boneless, skinless, bite-sized pieces of chicken breast meat as well.
Note: Tom kha gai is usually made with bone-in, skin-on chunks of chicken (as explained here). The bones turn the plain water-coconut milk liquid into a delicious broth in the process of long, slow cooking. The low-temperature cooking method is recommended only when you opt for boneless, skin-less chicken breast meat.
Start off by infusing the coconut milk-chicken stock mixture with the fresh herbs. Get the temperature of the liquid to the level ideal for poaching, then add the chicken breast meat last. If we had gone with the old-fashioned Tom Kha Gai, I would have suggested you use the same method explained in my Old-Fashioned Tom Yam post. But since we’re using bite-sized pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast meat, we need to slightly alter the cooking method by adding the chicken meat to the liquid last and cooking it very, very gently.
Also, since there’s very little flavor in boneless, skinless chicken breast meat to impart to the broth (that’s why people don’t make chicken stock out of boneless, skinless chicken breasts), the concentrated chicken stock and the fish sauce will be the primary sources of umami in this light-weight version of Tom Kha Gai. Neither is optional.
Tom Kha with oyster mushrooms (the best vegetarian option, in my opinion) with added Nam Prik Pao
9. Can Tom Kha Gai be made vegetarian? Here are my thoughts:
Named as such, the dish has meat — chicken, to be precise — in it by definition which implies that it is not meant to be vegetarian. For those who abstain from meat, you can use tofu or, as I have done from time to time during my detox phases, assorted wild mushrooms which are very meaty and delicious. A friend of mine loves sliced cabbage (regular or savoy) in lieu of the gai in her Tom Kha Gai. My grandmother sometimes threw in hearts of palm, hearts of coconut, or sliced banana blossoms into the mix. None of this is traditional yet all of these meat substitutes are delicious. I don’t like green leafy vegetables in Tom Kha, though. In fact, anything in the cruciferous family, except for green cabbage, tastes pretty bad to me when cooked this way. But that’s just an opinion.
10. Regardless, when gai is omitted, you can’t call it “Tom Kha Gai” just as you wouldn’t say “vegetarian barbecued pork.” Tom Kha Hed (mushroom), Tom Kha Tao-Hu (tofu), or Tom Kha Ka Lam Pli (cabbage) — whichever applies — would be more appropriate.Oh, and don’t forget to boost the flavor by using very concentrated vegetable stock and seasoning the broth with salt instead of fish sauce for the use of soy sauce would be a surest way to kill this lovely dish.
Though anemic-looking, this coconut-y broth packs in lots of flavor from concentrated chicken stock
This recipe yields 2-3 servings of main dish soup (meant to accompany rice)
Simmer the aromatic ingredients in the stock and then add the chicken pieces.
Add the coconut milk. Be sure to use extra creamy coconut milk.
Add the mushrooms and Thai roasted chilly paste.
Add the fish sauce. Do this one tablespoon at a time, tasting along the way.
Stir in the coriander (cilantro) and spring onions (scallions).
To finsish, add lime juice to taste. I use about 70ml (1/4 cup)
4 stars. if you replace ginger w galangal. I get that writing a Tom Kha recipe omitting galangal is inexcusable, but if you fix that error, which is easily done, this recipe works well. I used large pieces of lime zest in lieu of kaffir lime bc I couldn't find that. Preparation is easy and the soup is very satisfying. I was worried that the coconut milk would break but it was fine, even sitting on heat for over an hour. Reheated well the next day.
Very well received by my family!
Would like to correct something here. I'm Thai and cooking is my passion. I stay outside the country a lot. I know cooking some Thai dishes outside Thailand is not easy to make it authentic. Some ingredients can be replaceable but for some dishes, there are some ingredients can't be optional or replaceable otherwise it will lose its taste and aroma and turn into some other dishes. Like this Tom Kha Kai, its name comes from its main ingredients. In Thai, Tom is soup or the way to make soup, Kha is galangal and Kai is chicken. So in this recipe you can not replace Kha or galangal with Khing or ginger. It is unacceptable for this dish. In Thai we can adjust the recipe by use prawn or seafood in stead of chicken. The name will change to Tom Kha Kung (prawn) or Tom Kha Thale (the sea ) So Kha or galangal is the one that make this dish unique and special. The rest is of this ingredient is ok to compromise. Feel free to ask, I love to share.
Easy to make and absolutely delicious! (don't forget topping the soup with red chili oil and chopped cilantro)
I rate this soup a "2" but all the right ingredients are there, they just need to be increased, so I rate it a 4 after enhancing it. Original recipe is too watery (compared to my favorite at Phuket Thai in Honolulu), so I reduced broth from 6 cups to 3. Doubled the ginger. Increased the lime juice at the end after I tasted it. Added 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes which I crushed.
Bland. Not anywhere near tge Tom Kha Ghai I love.
Bland. Not authentic. Disappointed.
I made several changes to this recipe but wasn't happy with the flavor overall. I think it would have been even more diappointing if I had made it per the recipe. I reduced the chicken broth to 4 cups and increased the coconut milk to 1.5 cans but it was still too watered down. Next time I would omit the chicken broth all together and use two cans of coconut milk instead. The amount of chicken would also probably need to be reduced in that case. For more flavor and a little heat I also added 4 tbl red curry paste which I sautéed in a little coconut oil before adding any other ingredients. It would have been completely bland and tasteless without the curry paste.
Great soup base - the taste is *right on*, but like others have said. it needs some spice. We made it just like the recipe stated with the following changes: our local Thai grocery store had galanga, so we used that instead of ginger. We doubled everything except the chicken and the mushrooms (I'm the only one who likes mushrooms. everyone but me has what I call "a very narrow palate" - if you get my meaning). I also added some pho noodles (made in a different pot and, as another user stated, poured the soup over it) because the folks at my house would like that (and they did). I added 4 Thai chilies for some heat, but there wasn't quite enough. We added all the other stuff "to taste" but it still needed some more spice. We ate it for lunch the next day adding (while heating it back up): halved cherry tomatoes, red onion, and orange bell pepper. A TONNE (well - maybe not a tonne) of chili oil and paste to get it to be that sort of red stained colour. This gave it the little bit of something that I thought it needed. Very nice. If you want to go *way* off the recipe, I thought it might be nice to use shrimp instead and some frozen sweet corn niblets on top of the other additions. sort of like a Thai seafood corn chowder type soup. Just sayin'.
Part 2: Rice (วิธีหุงข้าวมัน)
Some people say it’s the rice and some people say it’s the sauce that either makes or breaks a plate of chicken rice. Whatever you choose, the rice is just as important as the chicken in this recipe for khao man gai (วิธีทำข้าวมันไก่).
In Thai, khao man, actually translates to oily rice (ข้าวมัน), and in this case, chicken oily rice.
- 2 kg. uncooked rice (I used good quality Thai jasmine rice for this recipe)
- About 3.5 liters of chicken broth (this was an estimate, really you should use about 1 cup of rice to 1 and ½ cups of chicken broth) – You could also use boxed chicken broth.
- ½ tbsp. salt
- 200 g. Thai garlic (or regular garlic)
- Chicken oil for frying (any kind of vegetable oil is alright too), if you’re going to use chicken oil, you’ll need about 1 kg. of chicken skin to get the oil
For the authentic recipe, you need to start by frying garlic in chicken fat oil.
If you don’t already have chicken oil, the first step is to take some chicken skin, stick it in a hot pan, and cook it until all the oil comes out – should take about 10 minutes or so.
It was honestly a little gross to me, seeing all that chicken oil come out of the skin, but the flavor results were quite wonderful.
Anyway, once the chicken skin is toasted brown and crispy, and all the oil has been released, you can then drain the pieces of chicken skin, because we’ll only be using the oil.
Alternatively, you can also just choose to use normal vegetable oil to fry your garlic, but chicken oil is the street food way.
I’m using Thai garlic, which are small, sweet and fragrant cloves, for this recipe. But if you can’t find the small cloves of Thai garlic, you can alternatively use normal garlic.
You don’t need to even peel the garlic, just toss it all into a food processor or blender, and blend it up.
Deep fry the garlic in chicken oil
Using the hot chicken oil, deep fry the garlic on a low to medium heat. You’ll probably have to stir it continually to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn or stick to the pan.
It took me about 8 minutes to fry the garlic. You’re looking for a nice brown toasted color, and the garlic should be extremely fragrant and smell amazing.
Then you can turn off your heat, and drain and strain the garlic – we’re not going to use the oil, and then only the garlic fried in the oil.
Fried garlic, add to rice
For the rice, I’m using high quality jasmine rice, and cooking it in a normal rice cooker. The first step is to give the uncooked rice a good rinse with water, and then drain it.
Then add in all that beautiful fried garlic, which should be a golden color.
Stir it up with chicken broth
Normally for Thai jasmine rice, the ratio is about 1 part uncooked rice to 1.5 – 2 parts liquid. I did about 1 to 1.8 or so, and it cooked perfectly.
Instead of using water to cook your rice, instead we’ll be using the chicken broth straight from the pot. After adding the broth, you can also add in a pinch of salt, up to your preference.
Once you’ve got your rice in the pot ready, give it a quick stir to make sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed and mixed through, then flatten out your rice, and press cook on the rice cooker.
The rice will probably take about 30 – 40 minutes, and once it’s finished cooking just let it sit for another few minutes. After that, open the cover, and you can give the rice a stir, making sure if fluffs up.
Vegetables for the soup
How to Make Tom Kha Gai:
Heat the avocado oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges begin to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue sauteing another 3 minutes, until mushrooms begin to sweat.
Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, cover the pot, and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 20 to 30 minutes, until the soup is very aromatic and the chicken is cooked through.
Serve soup in big bowls with lime wedges and cilantro.
Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai is a highly popular Thai soup known for its intense and aromatic flavors and its rich and creamy coconut-infused broth. Tom Kha Gai translates as “boiled galangal chicken.” Galangal looks similar to ginger and is related to it, but has a more peppery and pungent flavor. Use galangal for this recipe if you can find it (available at most well-stocked Asian markets) or substitute with ginger.
This is a quick and easy soup to make, but there is nothing simple about the deliciously complex flavors. Aroi Mak Mak! (That’s Thai for “Deeeeelicious!”)
Thai people love their food (and so do we!) and food is a central part of their culture. I have heard it said that Thai people don’t exchange “how are you?” as the common greeting. Rather, they ask “gin khao reu yung?, which means “have you eaten yet?” Now that’s my kind of greeting! Scratch the small talk and let’s get down to FOOD!
I wanted to create a version of this soup that was bursting with flavor, deliciously aromatic, and visually beautiful. Goal achieved! I’m confident you will agree.
*Note: For seafood version (Tom Kha Thale) and vegetarian-friendly, substitute shrimp for the chicken, vegetable broth for chicken broth, and follow the same preparation instructions.
Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) Recipe | 1-Minute Video
Unfortunately I got distracted while making this one and forgot to snap some step-by-step photos. But the process is really quite simple:
- Make your broth (lemongrass, ginger, lime juice, chicken stock, green onions)
- Strain your broth (it’s traditional to remove all of the chunky ingredients and leave behind the flavor)
- Add in the remaining ingredients (chicken, mushrooms, coconut milk, fish sauce, and veggies if you’d like)
Then dish it up and pile it high with your favorite toppings!! If you ask me, the more the merrier. This time I went with lots of fresh cilantro and green onions. And then I’m a big believer that this soup needs a little “kick”, so I added in some fresh Thai red chiles. However, this dish is extremely versatile, so feel free to pile up on the ingredients you love best.
Bottom line, it’s really simple to make. And instead of just getting the tiny bowl of “side soup” that I usually get in restaurants, this huge pot was a delicious invitation to go back for seconds. And um, maybe thirds… :)
Coconut chicken soup (Tom kha gai)
What Thai soups all have in common is that intriguing flavor that is simultaneously sour, salty and spicy. Thais call this flavor yum. It is the most important flavor in Thai cookery.
This popular Thai soup gets its sour flavor from the lime juice, its saltiness from the fish sauce and its spiciness from the Thai chiles. The Thai chicken stock imparts three additional essential Thai flavorings: lemon grass, galangal and makrut lime leaves. The coconut milk adds sweetness and richness, enhancing the already complex flavor of the broth in this classic Thai dish.
Bring Thai chicken stock to simmer over medium-high heat in large pot. Add chicken, mushrooms and chiles and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice and coconut milk. Add chopped cabbage and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Divide among serving bowls and garnish each with 1 to 2 lime leaves and cilantro.
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Tom kha gai soup (thai coconut chicken soup)
Tom kha gai (thai coconut chicken soup) is probably one of my favorite soups of all time. It’s the perfect blend of all the things I like: spice, creaminess, tart acid, savory flavor, and texture. It is a soup that I have come to know quite well. The last restaurant I worked at in San Diego, this soup was on the menu for about a year! It was so popular that we couldn’t take it off! One of my prouder accomplishments for sure. I hope you enjoy delving into some Thai cuisine here and that this soup quickly becomes a staple in your home!
What is Tom Kha Gai soup?
Tom kha gai soup is a traditional soup in Thai cooking. It is considered a ‘hot and sour’ soup (mostly from the fresh lime juice) with a base of broth and coconut milk. You will usually find a mixture of chicken and mushrooms in the soup, but also shrimp at times. The broth is also flavored with rich aromatics like lemongrass, galangal (similar to ginger), kaffir lime leaves, shallots, fish sauce, fresh lime juice, coconut milk, cilantro, and sometimes Thai chilies.
What makes this soup so good?
The important part to making this soup so, so good is to use the right ingredients! Homemade chicken stock is a must, and if you need a recipe, here’s a quick and easy recipe for chicken stock made in the instant pot! This means you’ll need to head to your local Asian market or well-stocked grocery store for the remaining ingredients! Substitutions can make a good soup, but to really make this soup the best it can be you will need the intended ingredients!
What’s the difference between Tom Kha and Tom Yum soup?
While I love both of these soups, Tom Kha is definitely my favorite. They are similarly aromatic, but Tom Yum is broth based and quite spicy! Tom Kha is a little milder and I absolutely love the creaminess that the coconut milk adds. Both are delicious in their own right, you should give each one a try! Both are perfect soups for cold weather and if you’re feeling a cold coming on!
Ingredients in Tom Kha Gai soup
Here is a list of the notable ingredients in this soup, plus a brief description and a link (if possible) of where to buy them! Just click the title of each ingredient.
- : Coconut milk is made by extracting the liquid from the grated meat of mature coconuts. My favorite brands are Aroy-D and Chaokoh coconut milks. You can find them at any Asian market, as well as Whole Foods, Sprouts, some well-stocked HEBs (if you’re in Texas), and Amazon. I don’t recommend that you use refrigerated coconut milk that is meant to be a milk replacement instead, look for the canned, full-fat coconut milk in the Asian aisle at your local grocery store.
- Galangal: Galangal is similar to ginger, but it has a thinner skin, and a richer, spicier flavor. You will find this in the fresh produce section of your local Asian market. You can substitute fresh ginger in a pinch, if necessary. : Lemongrass is a super fragrant aromatic that comes in the form of a large stalk. You can also find this in the fresh produce section of your local asian market, whole foods, or some well-stocked grocery stores. I tend to buy a lot when I find it and freeze it for later use. : These are leaves from the kaffir lime tree and they have a spicy, and fragrant lime flavor. I tend to find them in the fresh produce section of your local Asian market or well-stocked grocery store. I also buy these in bulk and freeze them when I find them. : Fish sauce is made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for 2 years. I love the salty/umami flavor that fish sauce adds to this dish without tasting “fishy”. I have found fish at most well-stocked grocery stores including Trader Joe’s, HEB, Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc. : This is a paste made of red chilies, dried shrimp (it doesn’t taste fishy!), lemongrass, galangal, kaffir limes, garlic, etc. It’s so flavorful and adds tons to curries, soups and marinades. My favorite brand is Mae Ploy! : Palm sugar is a natural sweetener derived from varieties of palm trees. I love the subtle sweetness it adds to the soup. You can find it at most Asian markets or on amazon. The closest substitute would be coconut sugar, and brown sugar would work in a pinch.
How to prepare Tom Kha Gai soup
I start with a dutch oven or pot that can hold at least 4 quarts. First, heat up a bit of neutral oil in the pot and add sliced shallots, chopped lemongrass, and the sliced galangal over medium-low heat. Then, sauté the aromatics for a couple of minutes until the shallot is a little softened. I, then, add the curry paste to the pot and cook it for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Then, add the kaffir lime leaves and the chicken broth and bring it to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Once the broth has reduced a little, use a slotted spoon to fish out the galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves. At this point, I add the chicken, fish sauce, palm sugar, and coconut milk and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Then, I add the mushrooms and shrimp, season the soup with salt, add fresh lime juice and cilantro, and it’s ready to go! I always add a little chili oil to the soup to make it spicy, but it’s totally up to you!