So deliciously good, this Tom Kha Kai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) has the flavors of lemongrass, lime, chili, coconut milk and so much more! Your tastebuds are treated to a creamy, spicy, tangy and savory deliciousness with every mouthful!
If you follow this blog, you know I am such a huge fan of Thai food! I believe the Thais have perfected the art of balancing flavors.
If you have ever tasted at least one Thai dish, let’s say – Pad Thai – you know that this is apparent. With one taste of Pad Thai noodles your tastebuds are immediately treated to a wonderful burst of flavors – sweet, salty, tangy or sour, and sometimes with a spicy kick – all rolled into one dish!
This is exactly what Tom Kha Kai is all about. A delicious combination and layering of flavors in one bowl of soup!
Why do I say that?
Look at the ingredients used in this yummy soup! The combination of aromatics, spices, herbs, and seasonings plus the creamy coconut milk all work together harmoniously to create one deliciously complex bowl of soup! Your tastebuds are in for a treat!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO MAKE TOM KHA KAI
- Chicken – boneless and skinless breast(s) weighing up to 1.5 pounds are best for this because they don’t require long cooking.
- Lemongrass – some groceries carry this and definitely may be found in Asian stores. Remove the tough outer layer and use only the whitish bottom part of the stalk. Bruise the stalk using a rolling pin or meat mallet or even by using a mortar and pestle. This releases the oils in the stalk that provide the lemongrass flavor. Add the entire bruised stalk when cooking this soup.
- Galangal is an aromatic rhizome in the ginger family that has a wonderful citrusy flavor. If you cannot find galangal (available in Asian stores), you may replace it with ginger. They won’t taste the same because ginger has a sharper more pungent spicy kick but using ginger would add another layer of flavor to this soup so it’s ok to replace galangal here (but if you can find galangal – even better!)
- Shallots – this is more popular in South East Asian cooking than regular onions but feel free to replace with one large onion if you cannot find small shallots. These small reddish bulbs are available in Asian stores.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves – These dark green-colored shiny leaves are actually composed of two leaves attached to one another. Very fragrant with a strong citrusy flavor this is what gives Thai dishes their classic aroma and flavor!
- Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream – make sure to use good quality canned coconut milk and cream preferably ones with no additives.
- Lime Juice – freshly squeezed is best. The lime juice adds freshness and tang to the soup.
- Fish Sauce – this is the secret that explains why Thai dishes (and South East Asian dishes in general) are so delicious! Just a little goes a long way with this sweet-salty sauce. It adds a savory umami complexity to any dish! I personally cannot live without this in my kitchen!!!
- Red Chilis – use Thai red finger-length chilis. The Thais would probably use about 6-8 chilis, in this soup! I settle for 2-3 as this can be spicy. Try 1-2 first and add some more, as desired, until you reach the heat level you can tolerate.
Lemongrass, galangal (or ginger) and lime juice all provide that delicious tang and freshness. Add to these the kaffir lime leaves which not only add such a delicious aroma to the soup but likewise imparts a tangy, spicy, lime-like zestiness to soups such as this one.
Coconut milk and cream not only provide that yummy creamy texture but also adds a hint of sweetness that provides a lovely contrast to the other tangy and salty flavors of this soup.
Fish sauce and salt both add the savory umami flavor which elevates this soup.
Don’t forget the spicy kick from the chilis which cut on the creaminess of the coconut milk and cream and gives the soup with that extra zing!
Best of all this Thai Coconut Chicken Soup is super easy to make and can be done in less than 30 minutes! Yes, you read that correct – less than 3o minutes.
So make sure to try this soup this winter! I guarantee you’d be making this time and time again!
Best Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Kai or Gai)
So deliciously good, this Tom Khai Kai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) has the flavors of lemongrass, lime, chili, coconut milk and so much more! Your tastebuds are treated to a creamy, spicy, tangy and savory deliciousness with every mouthful!
- 1 lb chicken breast, boneless and skinless
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 3 inch-length galangal (or ginger), peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 stems lemon grass, use only the whitish lower bottom, bruised
- 5 small shallots (or 1 large yellow onion), peeled and sliced
- 5 leaves kaffir lime, torn
- 2-3 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
- 1 (14 oz) can coconut cream
- 3 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
- 2-3 pieces Thai red finger-length chilis, or to your desired spice level
Cut the chicken breast into thin slices. Set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the sliced galangal (or ginger), bruised lemon grass, shallots (or onion) and kaffir lime leaves. Saute until aromatic, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the chicken and salt. Pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and tender.
When the chicken is done, pour in the coconut cream, lime juice, fish sauce and chilis. Bring to a boil. Once the soup starts to boil, turn off the heat.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve hot and serve with rice!