Tom Kha Gai Soup
Tom Kha Gai is one of Ray’s favorite soups, and he had been asking me for a while to try making some at home.
Today was the day! I decided to take the jump and do it! When you try a new recipe, especially when it’s a dish from a cuisine you’re not as intuitive and comfortable with as with your home cooking and flavors ( I grew up in the Mediterranean, so I can cook with thyme, rosemary, basil, tomato, garlic, onion, eyes closed just following my nose!). I love smelling, touching and cooking with new flavors, herbs and ingredients that make me explore the world and travel out of my kitchen – to other continents – through the senses… So I loved the challenge!
It came out beyond expectation, flavorful and delicious… And it’s now Ray’s number one dish on his home cooking wish list;)
I researched and pulled from the Internet several recipes and insights, to finally come up as usual with my own expression of the recipe.
NOTE: It is not a vegetarian recipe. The base is a chicken stock – which felt great to my tummy on a Vata day (cold + windy) in Dallas, and it has fish sauce too.
Here it is, shared with love;)
Recipe for 4 servings:
2 organic boneless chicken thighs
1 small turnip, cut in four
1 small celery stalk, cut in 3 or 4 pieces
1 Not-Chick’n bouillon cube (or any other healthy bouillon cube, for extra flavoring; just watch out that it does not contain MSG or any artificial flavoring)
4.5 cups of water
5-6 medium sized white mushrooms
1.5 stalk of lemongrass
5-6 fresh Thai chilies (also called bird’s eye chilies)
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced (it replaces the original galangal called for in most recipes)
6-7 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or dried, mine were dried but still flavorful when infused)
3 limes, juiced
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, slightly chopped
1.5 cup full fat coconut milk
Salt and pepper
1. Prepare chicken stock by mixing the water with the chicken, the turnip and the celery in a stainless pot. Add salt to taste. When boiling let it simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes, so the chicken can release its juice for the stock.
2. While the stock is cooking, cut the lemongrass stalks in 1-inch pieces, and crush them a bit in a mortar. Set aside. Cut the kaffir lime leaves along the stem (if fresh) or separate them, and crush them a bit, if dry. Slice the ginger. Place it all in a spice ball ( looks like a big metal tea ball) – that it’s a lot easier to remove them form the soup before serving.
2. Remove the chicken and veggies from the pot, and keep both chicken and turnip aside.
3. Add the coconut milk and the spice ball to the stock, and let it infuse and simmer for about 15 minutes.
4. While the stock-herbs infuse, cut the mushroom in half or quarters (depending on size, and preference). Cut the reserved cooked chicken and turnip in cubes. Set aside.
5. After the 15 minutes of simmering, add the mushrooms, and let them cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. When the infused stock is ready, it should diffuse a fragrant, lemony smell when ready. The mushrooms should be cooked but not too mushy-soft.
6. Crush a bit the chilies in a mortar. Turn the heat off, and add the chilies to the soup.
7. Finally, add the lime juice and the fish sauce, and stir.
8. Pour in a bowl with steamed jasmine rice ( I learned through my research that traditionally it is served with rice as an entree and not an appetizer). If you go for the all-meat version, add your reserved chicken to it (that’s Ray’s version); for the semi- vegetarian version (that’s me), add the turnip. Sprinkle some cilantro and a pinch of ground black pepper on top.
Enjoy! …. and let me know how it came out;)