Recipe: thai chicken coconut soup (tom kah kai)
People have been asking me all day who is baking the cake. They mean my birthday cake. Um… no one. I don’t have time for cake let alone a birthday because I’m hitting the road tomorrow and I have a to do list long enough to beat out a double roll of Charmin. Jeremy and I have birthdays fairly close together such that we agree to celebrate at a later, more convenient date. Probably in October. September is just insane for both of us. We’re cool with it.
pretty sure kaweah would have liked some cake
I do want to thank all of you for your sweet birthday tweets and Facebookings. It was a special day, because every day is special! So I’ll just share some of what made it all so nice:
not a full double rainbow, but i’ll take it!
grilled ono for dinner
new member of my apple family
The weather has turned from summer to autumn here. Today. Like a switch. I love it! In between all of the frantic work piling up, I spied fresh snow on the local mountains, I got to see my friend Kath, the UPS delivery dude arrived EARLY instead of the typical 5:00 pm (now THAT is a birthday present on a signature-required package), and the very best part of the day? Getting an impromptu ice cream cone with Jeremy. So you see, a very good day – birthday or no. Cake can wait and yeah, *I’ll* be the one baking it :)
Remember that little cold I caught in Seattle? There’s nothing like being sick to make you appreciate being healthy. I kicked that one pretty handily, but being well again seems to heighten my appreciation for the fall colors, the change in the weather, the crisp chill on the air. I’m giddy with excitement just thinking about snow. Okay, but back to being sick… As soon as I got home from Seattle, I bought an organic chicken and made some homemade chicken broth. I swear by it. My mom used to make it for me whenever I got sick as a kid and it made me feel so good. This time, I recovered quickly enough that I still had some chicken broth left and found myself in the mood for some spicy, tangy, luscious soup to jettison that last bit of crud in my chest.
homemade chicken broth, fish sauce, coconut milk
chicken, straw mushrooms, cilantro, lime, kaffir lime leaves, galanga, thai bird chiles, lemon grass
Yes yes yes. Tom kah kai – Thai chicken coconut soup. I was just about to type that it is one of my favorite soups, but I actually love all manner of soups – especially with the cooldown in the weather. As long as you can find the ingredients, it is ridiculously simple to prepare. Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemon grass are probably the toughest ones to find. You can always make substitutions like ginger for galangal, but the difference is striking. Galangal is more floral, delicate.
pour the broth and coconut milk in with the aromatics
As for the Thai bird chiles, I prefer to slit them open rather than slice them up because those seeds can be hot. I don’t mind the hot, but other people in this house (there’s only one other person) suffer quite a bit if food is too spicy. Slitting the chiles gives a nice bite to the soup without burning your lips off.
when the soup is boiling, add the chicken and mushrooms
When I normally make this soup, I omit the chicken. The chicken doesn’t really do much for me, but if I were to entertain guests, I’d include the chicken. I’ve used sliced shitake mushrooms (fresh or rehydrated dried ones) in place of the straw mushrooms too, but I like how cute the straw mushrooms look.
when the chicken is cooked, the soup is ready
You have spicy, sour, pungent, floral, citrus, herbal, tropical, earthy, creamy highlights throughout each spoonful. Visually it is equally stunning. There is so much STUFF in this soup (not all of it edible, mind you). My favorite part is the soup itself. Just sipping that broth full of those flavors is enough to send any cold or flu packing its bags. Hasta, suckers.
garnish with cilantro
Thai Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Kah Kai)
slightly modified from Thai Cooking Made Easy by Sukhum Kittivech
12 oz. coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth (the original recipe uses 1/2 cup water)
1/2 stalk of lemon grass, cut into 1-inch long pieces
4 kaffir lime leaves
4 slices galanga (you can sub ginger if you can’t get galanga, but it’s not the same)
6 Thai bird chiles, sliced or slit depending on how much heat you want (sliced is hotter)
1/3 lb. boneless chicken, cut into thin, wide strips
14 oz. can of straw mushrooms
2 tbsps fish sauce
2 tbsps lime juice
cilantro as desired
Place the coconut milk, chicken broth (or water, but I think it tastes much better with homemade chicken broth), lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galanga, and chiles in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken, mushrooms, fish sauce, and lime juice and cook until the meat is done (shouldn’t take more than a few minutes). Sprinkle cilantro on top and serve hot!