Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

When I think of soup in Asian restaurants, I think of Hot and Sour, Won Ton, and Miso. Of the three Won Ton is my favorite, or it was my favorite.

A few months ago we ate at a local Thai restaurant and they served Tom Kha Gai soup to start the meal. We’ve eaten in a hundred Thai restaurants over the years and somehow never came across this soup. It’s a flavor explosion of lime, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, and coconut. Have you tried it? If so, what was in it?

Once I discovered it, we’ve been Thai restaurant hopping around town to try different versions. And though the broth is similar, every restaurant has a unique twist on the other elements.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup

Since I crave it constantly, I decided to try making it myself. It turns out that it’s very simple and amiable to variation. I’ve added a few more vegetables than restaurants serve, but it makes for a heartier soup. And I couldn’t find kaffir lime leaves, so I used the juice and zest of two limes instead.

Have you had this soup before? I’d love to hear about the versions you’ve tried / or variations you would recommend in the comments below.

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
I couldn't find kaffir lime leaves so I used lime zest and juice and feel they're a fine substitute. If you can find lime leaves, use 10-12 in place of the lime zest and juice.
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, smashed and cut into 2" pieces
  • 1½-inch piece galangal root, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 jalepeno, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar or golden brown sugar
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • ½ pound Chinese broccoli (also called gai-lan or kai lan), coarsely chopped
  • ½ pound savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • ½ pound oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half, thinly sliced (you could also use thighs)
  • 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk (I used organic Thai Kitchen)
  • 1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek (red chili sauce) (or more)
  • salt to taste
  • fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
  1. Combine first 7 ingredients (lemongrass through chicken broth) in a soup pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes.
  2. Strain and discard solids and return broth to pot. Bring to boil and add next 4 ingredients (carrots through mushrooms). Stir then layer chicken slices over vegetables and cover pot. Steam 4-5 minutes until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.
  3. Stir in coconut milk, Sambal Oelek, and salt to taste.
  4. Serve garnished with fresh sprigs of cilantro.
Serves 4-6 as a main dish.


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