Tom Kha Gai – Thai chicken soup with coconut milk

a bowl with tom kha gai typical Thai chicken soup with coconut
A super aromatic Thai chicken soup with coconut milk. The chicken is tender, and the creamy slightly citrusy broth made with coconut milk. A truly an explosion of flavours and aromas.

About Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand around the world. No wonder, this Thai chicken soup is one of those easiest dishes to prepare, with a combination of simple and authentic ingredients that you can feel the flavor of Thailand with every spoonful.

In Thai, Gai means chicken and Tom Kha refers to the creamy, slightly citrusy broth made with coconut milk and flavoured with galangal, kaffir lime leaves and other ingredients. An explosion of flavours and aromas. 

Read more: A complete list with the most famous soups in different countries around the world

Essential ingredients of Thai soup

Although the list is not very extensive, some of the ingredients for making Tom Kha Gai can be difficult to find outside of Southeast Asia.

In this Tom Kha Gai recipe, we include all the details of the original recipe and also adaptations so that you can replicate the dish from anywhere in the world.

  • Coconut milk: the ideal is to make the soup with fresh coconut milk, but it also works with canned or boxed coconut milk. Give preference to those sold in Asian stores or buy it online from a good brand.
  • Mushrooms: In Thailand, it’s common to use Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) or a local variety known as straw mushroom (Volvariella volvacea).
  • Galangal: it is one of the most important ingredients in the soup, but it is also the most difficult to find outside of Thailand. You can also buy it dry, just rehydrate it before using. It is not easy to replace the galangal flavour perfectly, but the best alternative is to exchange it for fresh ginger.
  • Kaffir lime leaves: Easy to find in Asian markets. If you do not find the fresh leaf, dried or frozen leaves are often sold. The kaffir lime leaf releases a unique essential oil in the preparation. It is another difficult item to replace, but the best alternative is lime zest.
  • Lemongrass: another classic aromatic ingredient in Thai cuisine, the lemongrass stalk is used in most traditional recipes in the country. The stalk is hard and placed in large pieces to flavour the broth.
  • Red chilli: the red chilli used in Thailand is the bird-eye-chilli or Thai chilli (Capsicum frutescens). Note: Unlike other Thai soups, this soup is not that spicy.
  • Fish sauce: omnipresent ingredient in Southeast Asian recipes, in Thailand it is known as Nam Pla, it is worth having a bottle at home. It’s a very versatile ingredient, but if you can’t find it, you can replace it with soy sauce.

Tips for making a perfect Thai soup

The preparation of Tom Kha Gai is very easy, in less than 20 min you will have a bowl of super aromatic chicken soup to taste. But it is worth some tips:

Attention with coconut milk

Coconut milk is a super delicate ingredient and needs a little attention to avoid separating the solids when going to the pan. The important thing is to keep the heat medium-low and stir very gently.

Important! Don’t eat the aromatics

The recipe’s aromatic items such as galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass are essential to flavour the broth, but they are hard and should not be consumed. Therefore, they are added to the pan in large pieces so you can remove them before serving or leave them at the bottom of the soup bowl. Don’t chew them.

Variations in the Tom Kha preparation

  • For a vegetarian version of the soup: replace the fish sauce with soy sauce and do not add the chicken.

How to serve Tom Kha Gai like a Thai

In Thailand, Tom Kha Gai is eaten with a bowl of jasmine rice aside. Put some of the soup on top of the rice, like a curry.

Check out the recipe and learn how to make Thai chicken soup

a bowl with tom kha gai typical Thai chicken soup with coconut

Tom Kha Gai – Thai chicken soup with coconut milk

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A super aromatic Thai chicken soup with coconut milk. The chicken is tender, and the creamy slightly citrusy broth made with coconut milk. A truly an explosion of flavours and aromas.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 4 people

Adjust servings

Ingredients

  • 300 g chicken breast - cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup oyster mushroom
  • 3 cup fresh coconut milk
  • 3 slices galangal - or ginger (approx. 0.5cm thick)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves - or zest of 1 lime
  • 1 lemongrass stalk - cut into 3cm pieces and crushed
  • 1 onion - small cut in 4
  • 5 cherry tomatoes - cut in half
  • 1 thai chily - cut into thin slices
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp coriander – chopped
  • salt - to taste

Instructions

  • Place the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to medium heat. (Note: If using canned coconut milk, dilute with a little chicken stock or water);
  • Add the pieces of galangal (or ginger), lemongrass, the kaffir lime leaves and the onion;
  • As soon as it boils, add the chicken breast pieces and cook for 5 minutes over low heat;
  • Add mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, cook for a few more minutes until the chicken is cooked;
  • Turn off the heat and add the lime juice, fish sauce and peppers. Adjust the salt;
  • Serve with the chopped coriander leaves.
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