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Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Curry Soup)

Category: Soups

Suitable for a: vegan diet



OK, this is my favorite stuff EVER! I could just drink gallons I swear...

I buy everything for this WONDERFUL soup at the local Asian Market.

I listed the brands I like or can find easily, you might have to substitute according to whatever brands you can find.


2 19-ounce cans of coconut milk

- -(I prefer Mae Ploy brand, but Cha Khao is also good)

1 quart vegetarian style "chicken" broth or vegetable stock

5 1/4″ thick quarter-sized to half-dollar sized slices of fresh or frozen galangal root** (See notes below)

3 stalks lemongrass

- - (bottom 1/3 only, bottom of stalks trimmed, and outer layers stripped awaycut into three equal pieces and bruise with the back of the cleaver)

5 ****** lime leaves, or the zest of two regular limes

- - (I just cut the zest off in big pieces with a peeler to make it easier to fish out when all the flavor is gone from it)

2 tablespoons red curry paste, or to taste

- -(find a vegan brand free from shrimp or fish paste - I used to use Mae Ploy brandbut heard they'd started adding shrimp)

soy or vegan mushroom sauce to taste

6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thinly

1 tub or block extra firm (NOT silken) tofu,

- -(cubed and fried until golden in peanut oil, set aside)

juice of two limes or to taste

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed

3 scallion tops, thinly sliced

red and green Thai bird chiles, sliced thinly as a garnish



Combine the coconut milk, broth, galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves, zest or oil, and curry paste in a heavy-bottomed pot.

Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer. Season to taste with soy sauce. Turn down heat and allow to simmer for at least one half hour, forty minutes is better.

Fish out galangal and lemongrass. Add mushrooms and chicken. Simmer until chicken is done. Fish out lime leaves, add lime juice to taste, and garnish with cilantro leaves, scallion tops and sliced chilis.

Additional comments:


OK, now a couple notes about galangal:

The second word in tom kha gai, kha, means, galangal, and it is the backbone of the soup. If you can't find it, don't make this soup and expect it to turn out ANYTHING like the soups in Thai restaurants. In fact, find another recipe.

Coconut milk carries the flavor, but it is not the basis of the soup. It is all about galangal.

You'll actually pick the galangal (and lemon-grass) bits out of the soup before eating it - but this is what "makes" this soup!!

"Galangal is the tougher, larger, more complex-flavored cousin to ginger. Also a rhizome, galangal is best used fresh or failing that, frozen" (Quote from Wikipedia)

So I tried to use dried chips of it to make tom kha gai in the past and have failed miserably. Most of the sharp, strange "rooty" tang of the flavor is dissipated when it is dried, so the complexity of galangal totally is lost.

When fresh or frozen, however, the full impact of galangal is ready to be absorbed into the coconut milk-based soup. If you find you really like the taste - to further infuse the broth with the galangal flavor, buck tradition and simmer it very slowly over at least a two hour period of time.

So - hey, give this soup a try!! Once you find all the ingredients, it goes together SO quickly!!
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