Tom Ka Gai - Thai Chicken soup
Updated Feb 24, 2007 and again August 15, 2011
This soup is one of the recipes that lands people here the most, second only to stuffed pork tenderloin...go figure. I wanted to update this recipe because I made it again for dinner last night and I realised how horrible the picture was. I also wanted to correct my title which was previously Gai Tom Ka and it should be as reflected, Tom Ka Gai.
I haven't changed the recipe for this soup at all and it is still so, so, so amazingly good. And I'm updating the recipe because I've adapted it over the year's to suit our taste mainly more chili paste and onion. I will encourage you to seek out Galangal and Fresh lemongrass. Whole Foods tends to carry Lemongrass these days, galangal you may need to work a little harder to find.
Today I took a ride of to Brighton to see the famous Super 88 store. And what a store it is!!! The whole impetus to my trip was to find some Galangal to make gai tom ka. I really, really need to find someone who understands some of the finer points of Asian cooking to come with me. I saw things that blew me away. Big sheets of dried sea snail, a tiny bottle of something that claimed to be 'essence of giant water bug', Durian fruit whole for .99 cents per pound, rooster testicles, chicken and pigs feet, pig heart, lamb tongue, whole cow tongue, literally every single part of the animal was packaged and for sale. Fresh! An enormous seafood counter , now I know where to go finally to get fish heads to make stock. There were tanks with live lobster sharing space with catfish, moon fish and eels, perch and one called simply, 'big head fish', and it was.
There were aisles of condiments from every corner of Asia, rows of oils and nam pla and rice wine. An entire aisle of canned vegetable and fruits. Things like lychee and jelled pineapple and durian fruit. Spices for every type of Asian dish you could wish to prepare, jars of seasoning for rice with dried fish flakes and seaweed, sesame seeds, salt and dried egg all in a shaker jar.
I finally found some things I had been looking for like fresh galangal, scallion pancakes, baby bok choy (they had two kinds and I couldn't find anyone to speak English to explain the difference between the green and white bok choy), and soft sesame candy.
This is such a great soup, slightly hot from red curry,bright from galangal, lemongrass and lime juice, soothing with coconut milk, crunchy with sliced spring onion on top. It's everything in one bowl. this soup is the soup to cure what ails you. Trust me.
This soup is easy to make and can be made partially ahead and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. Adapted from a jean-georges vongerichten recipe in the Barbara Kafka book 'Soup a way of life'.
Tom Ka Gai
1 stalk lemongrass, remove outer sheath and the hard ends. Hit the stalk a few times with the back of a knife or a heavy frying pan, cut into three pieces.
1 TBScoconut oil
1 large onion finely minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. i don't know who I thought I was kidding, we use almost 4oz of curry paste in this, but then again we like the SPICY here. You can choose to use less. Thai red curry paste - I use Maesri brand
6 slices of galangal (fresh or frozen) Do not peel, slice into six 1/8" thick slices
3 - 5 kaffir lime leaves, preferably fresh
4 cups of good chicken stock
3/4 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast sliced into strips
2 cups of shitake or early winter mushrooms, chopped in eighths.
1 - 2 can(s) depending on heat level and taste of unsweetened coconut milk
Juice of 2 limes
2 TBS Nam Pla (fish sauce)
3 scallions trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup minced cilantro
In a medium heavy saucepan add the oil, garlic and onion, turn heat to medium. Cook for a minute, stirring and then ad the lemongrass, curry paste, galangal and lime leaves.
Cook stirring often for about 3 -4 minutes. The onion should begin to soften. Add the stock and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. (At this point you can either refrigerate the soup or shut it off for approx 1 hour to let the flavours develop.)
**Last night i added the mushrooms when I shut the soup off. this allowed them to absorb some of the flavour. Later I turned the heat back on and added the chicken and the coconut milk and continued with the rest of the recipe.
Bring soup back up to a simmer and add the coconut milk and then the chicken and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes or just until the chicken is cooked. Add the lime juice and Nam Pla.
If you wish, remove the galangal, lime leaf and lemongrass now. I leave it in as it is easy to fish it out. Place in bowls and sprinkle with cilantro and scallion and have extra lime juice to squeeze on.