Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai from @freshandfoodie
Tired of turkey? I thought so.
After Thanksgiving, the weather really took a turn for the worst here in Chicago. It’s rainy, windy and cold, and I have a feeling that we’ll be dealing with snow any day now. The North Face jacket and Sorel boots are ready…but I’m not. Like most Chicagoans, I still haven’t forgiven Mother Nature for dumping a whopping 23+ inches on us within 24 hours earlier this year. The storm, better known as “Snowmageddon” or “snOMG”, literally shut down the entire city for a day or two. It was crazy.
Dave and I before we tried to dig out our car (like a lot of people in Chicago,
we don’t have a garage so we park on the street). It didn’t do us much good though, as it took the city two days to plow our streets. 
The front door of our condo building. The stairs leading up to
the door are completely buried.
A video I found (not taken by me) of the chaos on Lake Shore Drive, where hundreds of cars got stranded (despite weather warnings) due to the amount of snow that fell while they were stuck in traffic. People ended up abandoning their cars and the city had to tow them away.
Needless to say, I’m dreading the upcoming winter even more than usual. Hibernation mode is setting in. And you can bet that I’ll be making up a few batches of Tom Kha Gai soup to help get me through.
I recently had a bowl of Tom Kha Gai soup at a great little Thai restaurant near my office (Star of Siam) and liked it so much that I wanted to try making it at home. This recipe is quite different than the one they made — I added noodles and different veggies — but the flavors are still present. What’s fun about this recipe is that you can completely customize it to your tastes — I like mine a bit creamier (more coconut milk) and on the spicy side (more Thai chili or Sriracha). Feel free to play around, but however you make it, it’s sure to keep you warm on a cold winter day.
Tom Kha Gai Soup (serves 6)
What you need:
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, halved to fit in soup pot, stem and tough outer leaves removed
  • 2 dried kaffir limes leaves (or fresh if you can find them)
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 baby bok choy, stems removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces, whites and greens separated
  • 1/2 a sweet red pepper, thinly sliced into matchsticks, and then halved to make 2-inch long strips
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger (or galangal if you can find it), peeled and grated
  • 1-3 fresh Thai chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 can coconut milk (according to taste)
  • 2  to 4 tablespoons fish or soy sauce (according to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (1 lime)
  • Brown sugar (optional, according to taste)
  • Sriracha (optional, according to taste)
  • 8-ounce package of udon noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

How you do it:

  1. Put the vegetable stock, lemongrass stalk, kaffir lime leaves and shiitake mushrooms in a large soup pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. (Note: The lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves will infuse the soup as it cooks, but should be removed before serving.)
  2. Once the soup is simmering, add the white parts of the baby bok choy, along with the red pepper strips, ginger and Thai chilies. Let soup simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
  3. The next steps are where you can adjust the flavors according to your tastes. I recommend starting with half a can of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or soy sauce and the juice of one lime. You’re looking for a balance of creamy, sweet, sour and spicy, so continue to add more coconut milk and fish sauce as needed. You can even add brown sugar or Sriracha if you’d like it sweeter or with a little more kick. Once you’ve achieved the desired flavors, let the soup simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add the green parts of the baby bok choy and continue to simmer until wilted. Remove the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
  4. Divide the cooked udon noodles between 6 bowls and ladle the soup on top. (Note: I recommend cooking the noodles separately rather than in the same pot as the soup — it’ll make your soup gummy.) Top each portion with scallions and cilantro.

11 thoughts on “Tom Kha Gai

  1. Ok, so don’t hate me … it’s been balmy mild here in Colorado. I haven’t watched the news in over a week and didn’t realize your temps took a turn for the worse. And Yes, I’m very tired of turkey and bless your heart, this soup looks wonderful. Love the names for your snow storm. I do love our big snows and now that Thanksgiving is over, I’m ready for one … bring it on.

  2. I love snow if there are things I can do (like snowboard) but when you live in Illinois, it’s pretty much just a pain!

    This soup looks amazing and has all the flavors I love- Definitely going on my winter soup rotation!

  3. I love this soup! I also totally feel your snow pain. That is why I left Chicago 9 years ago! It wasn’t just the snow and the wind chill factor, it was having to chip ice off my windshield and having the shards go down my coat sleeve. It was having to warm up the car for 30 minutes before you could drive, and that black sludge that forms in the street a few days after it snows. I just couldn’t take it anymore! I’ll be sending you balmy California wishes ❤

  4. I love this soup, and your recipe looks really flavorful! Love the blizzard pics, too. Oh and the world “gai” technically means “chicken” in thai. Not a big deal obviously but I had to share my extensive thai language knowledge with someone… ha 🙂

  5. I am soooo not ready for the snow! Ever since we moved to Peoria in June all I have heard about is how bad the winters are. I am hoping that it won’t be too bad. I have never had Tom Kha Gai Soup, but it looks incredible. I can’t wait to give it a try! 🙂

  6. Ouch, those snowmaggedon memories are still painful. Funny, I love Tom Kha Gai, but never think about making it at home. I used to work a few blocks from Star of Siam–their TKG soup is so, so good. Love the one at Thai Aree too.

  7. Winter. It’s here. It snowed for the first time this season a few days ago. A nice bowl of warm, pungent spicy soup sounds like just the ticket to dissolve my cold weather woes though. Reminds me of a beef and noodle dish similar to pho that I made once. Will have to re-visit this winter. 🙂

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