Tom Kha Gai

I have loved tom kha gai since the first time I tasted it. It’s a rich and creamy Thai coconut soup, spiked with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal. Fresh chilis give it a little bit of a kick, and hearty strips of chicken make it a satisfying meal. Oh yeah, and there are mushrooms. So it’s basically my platonic ideal soup. I order it every time we go out for Thai, and I have been dreaming of making my own for a good long while, but we just finally acquired the ingredients a few weeks ago. I was amazed at how well it came out on the first try, and I am pretty sure I am going to be making it weekly around here, at least until it’s too hot to even consider consuming anything remotely warm.

As far as soups go, it doesn’t look like much. The white color of the broth makes it look a little bit flavorless. But it is exactly the opposite of that. It’s more like an explosion of flavor.

I think we all have our dream dishes–things we eat at restaurants that we think we could never replicate at home. Maybe it’s a seven-layer cake or the perfect spice rub for a rack of lamb. Some things really can’t be replicated at home (alas, my oven just will not go up to the 700 degrees I need for the perfect pizza crust). But this soup, it’s my little kitchen miracle. A feather in my cap, that’s for sure.

Tom Kha Gai
Recipe from Serious Eats

20 ounces chicken stock
2-inch piece of galangal, peeled, half cut into slices, half cut into matchsticks (see note above)
2 stalks lemongrass, ends trimmed, tough outer leaves removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 Kaffir lime leaves, crumpled by hand (see note above)
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly against the grain
1/2 pound mushrooms (straw mushrooms if possible, but otherwise cremini or button), ends removed, sliced
1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime, plus more for serving
4 hot red chilis (such as Thai bird) ends trimmed, smashed with a knife
Handful fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

-Combine stock, galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaf in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 10 minutes. Discard the galangal and lemongrass.
-Add the coconut milk and increase heat to medium. Add chicken, mushrooms, galangal matchsticks, and Kaffir lime leaves, and cook until the chicken is completely cooked and the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.
-Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and red chiles. Remove from heat. Divide the soup between four bowls, making sure each has a red chile. Garnish with cilantro. Adjust flavor with more lime juice and fish sauce as necessary.

*Galangal and kaffir lime leaves can be found at Southeast Asian supermarkets. If unavailable, ginger can be substituted for galangal, and 4 strips of lime zest can be substituted for lime leaves.

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