Thai and Indian food are my two most favorite types of cooking. One of the things that they share is a love of spices, perhaps that’s why I adore both styles of cooking. Years ago, I had Tom Kha Kai for the first time, it was very soon after I had moved to Los Angeles. I immediately fell in love with the luxurious texture of the coconut milk. I love how the tartness of the lime juice dances with the salty briny taste of the fish sauce. I knew I had to learn how to make this. So I learned how. Quite honestly it was hard to find a recipe that matched my first experience. Tom Kha Kai, like any good recipe, has many variations. There are different mushrooms in it, some people leave the lemongrass, galanga ginger in the soup itself, others for some unknown apostate reasons add sugar (don’t add sugar ever). My original recipe is lost to the winds of time. I have made this and passed on my version for years now to ex-boyfriends, lovers, and the occasional stranger. My version has evolved over the years I tend to like my soups on the chunkier, more stew-like side. I think they are more comforting that way. It’s probably my Celtic ancestry kicking in there. I don’t measure, but I do use proportions when making a batch. This soup is always always always served with Jasmine rice on the side. Also, you must use a large deep spoon. There actually is a proper way to eat this soup. First, you grab a spoonful of the rice then you dip the spoon into the soup so that the deliciousness that is the soup marries the rice. Do not do something barbaric like throwing the rice in with the soup that will just ruin the whole experience. Trust me doing it the way I suggest will enhance your experience. So now that you know a little bit about my history with this recipe and how to properly eat it you’ll find the recipe below. This will make a good-sized pot of soup. You’ll want to also steam up two cups of jasmine rice to go with it.
4 good sized skinless chicken breasts cut into good-sized chunks (they shrink in the soup)
Thai Kitchen red curry paste
fish sauce this stuff smells nasty but gives an amazing umami flavor to not just that food.
red chili flakes or 1 hotter than hell Thai chili (don’t forget to wash your hands)
3 cans of coconut milk (not the kind next to the almond milk) or coconut cream if you can find it.
cilantro (unless you are a heathen that doesn’t like cilantro)
Put the chicken in a large soup pot along with the coconut milk next you are going to add about 3 tablespoons of the red curry and 3 tablespoons of the Thai seasoning. I add typically about 1/2 a cup of the fish sauce and 1 cup of the lime juice. Drop in the mushrooms and stir everything on medium heat. Let it come to a slow rolling boil till the chicken is cooked, then turn down to either a very low flame. It needs at least twenty minutes or so for the flavors to all marry. taste taste taste. You should be able to taste the lime, the curry paste, and the fish sauce, although it should NOT taste fishy or salty. Once it’s done serve in its own bowl with a bit of cilantro on top. Enjoy
This is the quick and easy version of Tom Kha Kai. Back when I first started making this soup, you had to acquire galanga ginger, lemongrass chop those up, and cook them in the soup. The texture on lemongrass is awful, its like dried serrated straw. I eventually started cooking the ginger/lemongrass separately to infuse the flavors in water which I would just put into the soup so you didn’t have dig through the soup to get rid of the ginger or lemongrass bits. Thank the heavens for Gourmet Gardens Thai seasoning. Which by the way you (hopefully) can find in the produce section of your local grocery store. Whole Foods carries it along with some Sprouts. Trader J’s does not, neither does Amazon.
If you make this soup, please leave a comment below and let me know your experience.