When Peter and I were in Krabi in February we had tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) nearly every day. His absolute favorite was at a wonderful restaurant called Bai Tong that ended up being just across the street from our resort. The restaurant, like many good finds in Southeast Asia, was small and unassuming with kitschy decor, smiling service, and delicious cheap dishes. We had both a dinner and a lunch at Bai Tong and never found a a tom kha gai that came even close to having the amount of flavor as Bai Tong’s so if you are in the area do make a stop by– all the dishes are amazing.
The key to a good tom kha gai at home is not to skimp on the delicious fresh Thai seasonings and let the ginger, garlic, chilies, lime and lemongrass simmer in your chicken broth. We’re lucky to have such easy access to Thai ingredients here in Hong Kong, but you can easily find many of these ingredients at an Asian or Thai grocery store in the US. Be sure to use fresh lemongrass, not the powdered stuff and if you aren’t making your own chicken broth — select a quality one.
If you’re extra hungry you can serve this classic Thai soup over rice to make it extra filling or serve alone as a starter or side for your next Thai dinner. I love mine with lots of chilies of course and a big squeeze of lime juice underneath a large handful of coriander (cilantro). This is one of the few dishes I can get away with sneaking mushrooms into and for those of you who share Peter’s dislike for them, fret not– they are easily avoided or left out. Although I prefer the mushrooms in the soup, with or without them you’ll have the vibrant flavors of Thailand in each heaping spoonful you ladle into your bowl.
- 48 oz (6 cups) chicken stock
- 4 stalks of lemongrass, ends trimmed, cut into long slivers
- 3 birds eye chilies, smashed and chopped
- 1.5 tbsp ginger, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- small handful of kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces
- 2 limes
- small handful of oyster mushrooms, chopped
- 1 lb. chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 12-13.5 oz can of coconut milk
- 1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
- handful of coriander (cilantro), to garnish
- lime slices, to garnish
- fish sauce, to serve
- In a large pot, bring chicken stock to a slow simmer over low-medium heat
- Add lemongrass, chilies, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and juice of 2 limes
- Stir well
- Let simmer for ~10 minutes
- Add in oyster mushrooms, chicken, and fish sauce
- Stir and simmer for a minimum of 20 minutes
- Ensure chicken is cooked through
- Reduce heat to low
- Pour in coconut milk and stir gently
- Add in chili flakes as desired
- Allow to simmer very gently over low heat for ~10 minutes
- Serve hot with fish sauce and coriander and lime slices to garnish
Serve with rice for a more filling meal
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