Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai is a highly popular Thai soup known for its intense and aromatic flavors and its rich and creamy coconut-infused broth.   Tom Kha Gai translates as “boiled galangal chicken.”  Galangal looks similar to ginger and is related to it, but has a more peppery and pungent flavor.  Use galangal for this recipe if you can find it (available at most well-stocked Asian markets) or substitute with ginger.

This is a quick and easy soup to make, but there is nothing simple about the deliciously complex flavors.  Aroi Mak Mak!  (That’s Thai for “Deeeeelicious!”)

Thai people love their food (and so do we!) and food is a central part of their culture.  I have heard it said that Thai people don’t exchange “how are you?” as the common greeting.  Rather, they ask “gin khao reu yung?, which means “have you eaten yet?”  Now that’s my kind of greeting!  Scratch the small talk and let’s get down to FOOD!

I wanted to create a version of this soup that was bursting with flavor, deliciously aromatic, and visually beautiful.  Goal achieved!  I’m confident you will agree.

*Note:  For seafood version (Tom Kha Thale) and vegetarian-friendly, substitute shrimp for the chicken, vegetable broth for chicken broth, and follow the same preparation instructions.

P.S.  Be sure to connect with me on Facebook to join in on all the foodie fun and to get word of the latest recipes!

Tom Kha Gai
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 /2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1½ tablespoon Thai red curry paste (can also be found in Asian markets)
  • 3 cups strong chicken stock
  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 large lemongrass stalk, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 thin slices fresh galangal or ginger
  • 2 Thai chilies, seeded cut in thin slices (use less if you prefer it less spicy)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, preferably Thai basil if you have it, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro or basil leaves for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Warm the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the curry paste, stirring until fragrant. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, chilies, lime juice, and fish sauce and bring it to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken strips and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the ¼ cup basil and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add salt to taste if needed. Remove the lemongrass and ginger and serve immediately, garnished with fresh basil leaves or cilantro.

 

Tom Kha Gai

 

 

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34 Responses

  1. wrote on

    This soup looks and sounds very delicious. I love Tom Kha Gai soup!

  2. wrote on

    Looks delicious…I can’t wait to try it.

  3. Melissa D

    wrote on

    Making this for my soup day at work! Looks DEEElicious!!

    • wrote on

      Thank you so much for the compliment, Melissa! Let me know how it was received at work. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Holly P

    wrote on

    hi, Im making this today and so far, cannot find curry paste or lemongrass and I am running out of time and have company coming! Anything I can sub in, like fresh lemon and something for the lemongrass? I do have spices, can I sub somethign for the curry? Thanks, it lokos delicious and I cant wait to make it and eat!!

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi Holly. Oh, I wish I could help you and that there were an adequate substitute for those ingredients, but there simply isn’t! The flavor of lemongrass is irreplaceable and it’s an integral and central part of Tom Kha Gai. It won’t taste anything like it’s supposed to without it. Some people suggest substituting some lemon zest and chopped cilantro in a pinch (though it still tastes nothing like lemongrass), but in the case of Tom Kha Gai, there is already lime and cilantro in it, so adding more citrus and more cilantro would be overkill. As for the Thai red curry paste, it’s a very different kind of “curry” than Indian curry. It’s primarily comprised of ground up fresh red chiles, garlic, oil, coriander and cumin seeds, fresh ginger, and – you guessed it – lemongrass. Normally, I could suggest substitutions for a lot of different ingredients, but as much as you want to make Tom Kha Gai today, I would suggest holding off until you have the right ingredients, and then you can be totally “wowed”! Lemongrass is normally sold in little plastic containers (cut in 4-inch stalks or so) and kept in the fridge in the produce section (in Asian stores it’s often sold in long, whole stalks). If you can’t find Thai red curry paste, you can try substituting with a basic red chile paste. Good luck! -Kimberly

  5. wrote on

    ok, just made it (alas, no lemongrass) BUT I have to say it is awesome anyway! I found the red curry paste (which I love, and dont normally like curry), I added some shrimp, snow peas, garlic. I used a can of coconut milk and a 2 cups from a carton, wasnt sure which one would be better :) Thanks so much for an amzing recipe!!!

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Well, I’m glad you liked it – even without the lemongrass. That’s great that you were able to find the red curry paste at least. Making Tom Kha Gai without both lemongrass AND Thai red curry paste…*shudder*…the thought is simply unimaginable! ;) Keep up your hunt for lemongrass and include it next time…you’ll love it even more. Thanks for your feedback!

  6. Carrie

    wrote on

    Hi – How many servings is this? And – assuming you’re using raw chicken when you say to use 1 lb. chicken, yes? Thanks. Looks good.

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Carrie, this is for 4 servings. And yes, always raw unless otherwise stated. Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by!

  7. Carrie

    wrote on

    Thanks for the reply – making this for next weekend – one more question – I know you say to serve immediately – but how is it the next day (I’m making three soups & so I typically only like to make one day of)?

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi Carrie! This particular soup is really best the day of, but if you do make it the day before, make it without the mushrooms and then the next day reheat the soup, add and simmer the mushrooms for 5 minutes. Let me know how it tasted making it the day before. Three soups…It sounds like you’re feeding a very lucky crowd!

  8. wrote on

    Thanks for posting this. I just had this dish at a hotel restaurant in Burma, and it was so good that I emailed the hotel when I returned to ask them for the name of the soup so I could hunt down a recipe to try to recreate myself. Look forward to trying to make your spin on it!

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi, Brittany. I look forward to hearing your feedback on what you think of this recipe.

      Were you bold enough to ask them to share their actual recipe? ;) I’ve been known to do that in my travels; sometimes with success, other times utter failure – but always worth the try!

  9. Carrie

    wrote on

    Hi – Made this soup last night (tripled it) and it was a hit – one of the favorites of the night. Thanks for posting – it’s definitely a keeper (I ended up making it just before everyone came over – so a little close for me – a few people said they liked it after it sat a while/wasn’t as hot). I haven’t tried the bit of leftovers yet.

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Carrie, thanks for getting back to me – I’m so glad it was a success and that your guests enjoyed it!

  10. Anonymous

    wrote on

    Hi! I want to make this recipe but I am a bit perplexed at how to remove the lemongrass and ginger after it is already in the soup. could you help me out on this?

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      No problem – You simply scoop them out of the soup with a spoon. You’ll note in the recipe directions that the ginger is left in slices and the lemongrass pieces are 2 inches long. They’re simply added to the soup to provide flavor and then removed at the end before serving.

  11. Marz

    wrote on

    Why can I use in place of Thai chil? I never see it in the store? Help!

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi Marz! Any red chile pepper will do the trick (for color and heat). Careful though, red chilies are hot as hades!! Even one is a little over-powering for me, so I usually remove most of the seeds. Let me know what you think once you’ve tried the recipe!

  12. wrote on

    […] coconut and chicken soup is my absolute favorite! I’ve even found a few recipes online (HERE, HERE, and HERE)so I can make my own. I’ll let you know how that turns […]

  13. wrote on

    I just made this the other day and it turned out great! I used a pound of crab meat instead of chicken and it was fantastically delicious!
    Thanks for the recipe

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Awesome! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it and thanks so much for your feedback!

  14. wrote on

    I found your blog after eating at a Thai restaurant and sampling this soup. I loved it so much I had to make it myself. We were visiting the States from where we live overseas. (Portugal….. well, the very remote islands of the Azores; very hard to find ingredients here!) Before we came home, I found an Asian store and mailed dried galangaal, dried Thai chilies and red chili paste to myself, as well as some good-quality coconut milk. I didn’t know what to do about the lemongrass, since I couldn’t even find paste anywhere, but to my delight, my local store actually had fresh lemongrass in stock yesterday, which is extremely rare!! So I got some, and other fresh ingredients needed, and made this today. It was so good, just as good if not better than what we had in the States. We loved it and ate it all. My 2-year old also enjoyed it. (Note: if you use dried chilies like I did, remove them at the end w/the lemongrass, etc).

    I’ve bookmarked other recipes to try and looked around your blog a bit and enjoyed myself. My parents live in Germany and we visited them before coming home, last week. We all love visiting Germany, there is so much to see and do there, and it’s beautiful. We drove 3 hrs. south to go to the Black Forest region this time.

    I have the same spaetzle press you do! Love it! I have yet to try spaghetti eis.

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hello, Michelle! AWESOME!! I’m so happy to hear you tried the Tom Kha Gai and that it was such a success! And I love the determination you showed to have all those ingredients available to you by mailing them to yourself! Considering it’s so hard to find the lemongrass there – and the store actually happened to have it that once – have you considered freezing it for future use? It freezes really well. Simply wash, trim, and chop the stalks, let them dry completely, and then freeze them in freezer bags for up to 6 months. That’s neat that your parents are living in Germany. Now, there’s an unspoken rule on this blog – you’re not allowed to mention visiting Germany (or England) without mailing me a plane ticket. But since you weren’t aware of that, I’ll let you off the hook this time ;)

      So happy you found my blog and I hope you’ll return often! And of course I always LOVE to get feedback!

      • wrote on

        I was wanting to freeze the rest of my lemongrass but was unsure how to do it- was going to look it up online but hadn’t had a chance yet, so thank you for the instructions! I am totally going to do that, and maybe buy some more so I always have it on hand. I already freeze fresh ginger.
        So glad to be let off the hook about the plane tickets, phew!

  15. Jim

    wrote on

    I made this soup this evening and followed the entire recipe except for a few changes:

    -Used tofu
    -Used Serrano peppers as Thai chiles are hard to come by here
    -Simmered very low for nearly 5 hours so the tofu would soak up all the juices.

    Turned out beautiful! I know 30 minutes time to have a dish ready is appealing, but I think more time really develops the flavors!

    Thanks!

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      That’s awesome, Jim! I’ve no doubt that after 5 hours of simmering that tofu was very juice-packed indeed! :) So happy you enjoyed the soup and thanks for your feedback!

  16. Anonymous

    wrote on

    I would never call that “tom kha gai”. Judging from the ingredients, it should be called “panaeng gai” instead. We don’t use any curry paste in tom kha. Just saying…

  17. wrote on

    […] coconut and chicken soup is my absolute favorite! I’ve even found a few recipes online (HERE, HERE, and HERE)so I can make my own. I’ll let you know how that turns […]

  18. wrote on

    I made this today and it is so simple n yet tastes amazing!!! Just like the restaurants do. And now i can have it at home without coughing up a fortune – yay! It also works well with seafood instead of chicken. I can’t thank you enough. xx

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      I’m so thrilled to hear that, missloulabelle, thanks so much for making this and for your feedback!

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