Coconut soup with chicken tom kha gai

By Nuit Regular
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Probably one of the most famous Thai dishes, you can find this soup in Thai restaurants all over the world. Made with coconut milk, galangal, and magrud lime, this soup has a mix of sour, sweet, and creamy flavours that melt in your mouth and warm you from the inside.

Keep in mind that lemongrass has hard fibres and is difficult to swallow. I like to chew on the lemongrass pieces and discard the fibrous part, as the taste is sweet  and aromatic and it is great for digestion. When you are adding cane sugar in the  final tasting, make sure the sugar is fully dissolved before you add it to the soup. If the sugar has not completely dissolved yet, the soup may not taste sweet enough. You might add more and then find out you added too much. Note: you’ll need to marinate the chicken for at least two hours or overnight.



  • 13 ounces (370 g) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1½ cups)
  • Standard Meat Marinade (page 310)
  • 1 cup fresh coconut water, thin part of coconut milk, or chicken broth
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (see page 18), lightly bruised and cut into 2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 8 pieces dried galangal (or 1-1/2-inch piece fresh galangal, thinly sliced crosswise)
  • 5 magrud lime leaves (see page 18)
  • 5 shallots, bruised
  • 3 cups well-shaken coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 cup packed oyster, button, shimeji, or king oyster mushrooms (about 2-1/2 ounces/70 g), trimmed
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 fresh red bird’s eye chili, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Tamarind Paste (page 303) or store-bought, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Thai cane sugar, if needed
  • 2 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh sawtooth coriander leaves (about 9 leaves), chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems (about 1-inch pieces)
  • Steamed Jasmine Rice (page 300), for serving


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken and standard meat marinade. Mix with your hands. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the coconut water, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, and shallots. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for two minutes. Add the coconut milk and salt and simmer until the coconut milk starts to boil, about three minutes.
  3. Add the chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, and chili. Poach the chicken for eight to ten minutes or until the chicken floats to the surface. If the soup starts to simmer, reduce the heat a bit. Once the chicken floats up, cook for another two minutes.
  4. Add, to taste, the fish sauce, lime juice, and tamarind paste for a balance of sour, salty, and sweet. Simmer for two minutes. Remove from the heat and taste the soup. Coconut milk and mushrooms provide a natural sweetness. If there is not enough sweetness, add the cane sugar. The best way to do this is by scooping about 1/2 cup of the soup into a small bowl and stirring in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Stir into the soup, mix well, and taste again. If it still needs more sweetness, add a little more sugar the same way.
  5. Stir in the green onions, sawtooth coriander, and cilantro. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

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