Tom Kha Gai Soup (Chicken Coconut Soup)

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I don’t make enough soup! It’s so easy and yet something that is definitely missing in our home. Soups have been around… well, pretty much as long as cooking has been around. They are an easy dish that allows us to use all our ingredients without putting anything to waste. It’s a way to extend a meal for a large family and provide substantial nutrients. That is if you are making (or purchasing) real homemade broth. So let me digress for a moment. Those cubes, that so many people love to buy.. You know the ones that you just add water and VIOLA! You have Broth! THAT IS NOT REAL FOOD. The broth cubes, paste, and many of the canned broths are FULL of MSG, sodium and chemicals. They can cause a lot of damage and defeat the original intent of soup, to provide nutritious food for our soul. Sooo you have some in your spice cabinet right now? Go ahead and stop what you are doing, run in there and get rid of them. It’s ok, I’ll wait…….

Now that we have that taken care of we can get back to the good stuff… Soup! There is not one culture that doesn’t use a soup of some sort in their cuisine. And frankly, there is nothing better than the smell of homemade broth filling your home. And… very few food items are quite as nutritious as soup. Broth provides us with essential vitamins and minerals, many of which are missing from our diets. When made correctly, they also provide us with healthy fats, gelatin and nutrients we may not otherwise get. Combine a good broth with additional veggies and protein and you have a well rounded perfect meal full of nutrients, protein, fat, and hydration.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having homemade broth in your home. It is so easy to make, you can freeze it and it will last a very long time, and can be used for a quick meal. So back to Tom Kha Gai soup. This is one of my favorite soups of all time. Vaughan and I always look for it on the menu any time we are at a sushi or Thai restaurant. I finally decided to try my hand and this delicious meal. I was actually out of chicken stock and needed to make some anyway so I started my day with the stock and lucky for Vaughan it was ready in time for dinner. And double lucky is the fact that this soup is pretty quick. Otherwise we probably would have been eating at 10pm which seems to be a regular occurrence when I am trying to make something new. This recipe is not a traditional recipe. Instead it uses items that you will be able to find easily and still tastes as good as the real deal. You can adjust the ingredients according to your taste profile and I definitely encourage you to do so.

fish sauce

About The Ingredients: Ginger is the one ingredient I find to dramatically affect my taste buds. To me, too much ginger tastes like pledge. Yes, the furniture polish. But somepeople really like a lot in this soup. I caution you to use less than more the first time you make this soup. Fish sauce can be find in just about any grocery store. Vaughan and I prefer Red Boat fish sauce. It is arguably one of the best and very pure. There are no additives and the flavor is powerful, pungent, and perfect! This soup typically is made with chili oil. I prefer chili paste instead as most chili oil is made from soybean oil and chili paste is simply ground down chilis and vinegar. You can use uncooked or cooked chicken. If using cooked chicken, simply add it once the soup is almost done to heat it up.

THE GOOD STUFF:

  • 2 stalks of lemongrass
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups of ginger (peeled and chunked)
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 6 cups chicken broth/stock
  • 8oz mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces (button, oyster, or straw)
  • 1-2 lbs of chicken, chunked (this can be any of the meat you prefer, breasts or thighs OR it can even be already cooked chicken that you have left over)
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk (or just use 1 can)
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or coconut crystals)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Chili Paste
  • Cilantro

THE HOW TO:

  • Cut down the lemongrass into 3-4 inch stalks and split in half. Lightly mash the lemongrass and ginger with the side of a large knife or kitchen mallet to release it’s juices and flavor.
  • Add the lemongrass, ginger, lime zest and juice into the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the soup to remove all the ingredients leaving behind only the liquid.
  • Add mushrooms and chicken (if using uncooked chicken). Make sure the chicken is cut into chunks. If using cooked chicken, do not add until the end.
  • Bring back to a boil then down to a simmer and simmer for about 20 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and the chicken is cooked through.
  • Add in coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar and stir until combined.
  • Take off heat and serve with a side of chili paste and cilantro.

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