Tom Kha Gai Recipe

March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tom kha gai is a Thai chicken coconut soup that I was introduced to recently within the past few years, and I have grown to love and crave it all the time.

Growing up, I never had Thai food. To our embarrassment, my family didn’t try a lot of things that we didn’t know. It was only after moving to a more diverse neighborhood when I was in high school, that we discovered many different ethnic cuisines that my family now loves as much as Korean food. We only wish that we had known about these foods sooner!

In college, my girlfriends and I were addicted to Nud Pob and Rod Dee in Boston. I STILL dream about their Star Noodles, Crispy Chicken Basil Pad Thai, and Eggplant Basil. YUM. While we were obsessed, I personally didn’t stray too far out of my comfort zone of pad thai and pad see ew (I’m so embarrassed!). Like many people, I began exploring more things and tastes only after I graduated college and moved to New York City, the perfect place to explore any curiosity.

This brings me to Thai food, in particular. I think the first “real” Thai food I had was at pok pok Brooklyn a few years back, where it changed my life! I never knew how complex and incredible these flavors were, the sour and sweet, salty and tangy, and my favorite, the SPICE. YUM. I knew I had to graduate from my elementary Thai taste buds and dive into this unknown, thrilling world. And I am so glad I have.

I love Thai food and have really come to embrace it in my own home kitchen. I’ve tried my hand at making my favorite dishes, and I have a couple more recipes to add to that list.

This soup is so delicious. It’s tangy, salty, a little sweet, and creamy, and an altogether perfect balance of these complex Thai flavors. Please try to find the kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass (the “Holy Trinity” of Thai cooking), they truly make this dish outstanding and inimitable.

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Tom Kha Gai Recipe

Serves 2 -3 large servings; 30 minutes prep + cooking time


  • 1 medium-sized chicken breast, around 11/2 lbs, sliced thinly against the grain
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tbsp fish sauce, divided
  • 1 shallot, quartered (you can substitute a small onion)
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken stock, plus 1 cup
  • 1 inch slice of galangal, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, trimmed to about 1 ft, the outer tough layers removed and bruised
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn and center stems removed
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 8 ounces of whatever mushroom you like, we chose beech (shimeji) and shiitake mushrooms, sliced or broken into small clusters with the shiitake stems reserved for the broth
  • 1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • salt to taste, optional
  • cilantro, optional
  • red chili flakes, optional
  • green onion, sliced thinly optional


  1. Marinate chicken breast in 1 tbsp of fish sauce. While chicken is marinating, heat broiler on high and blister shallots for 4-5 minutes, or until edges are charred. Watch carefully, it’s easy to burn using the broiler.
  2. Heat chicken stock on medium-high heat until boiling gently. Add blistered shallots, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. I like to put shiitake mushroom stems into my soups for more flavor so if you are using fresh shiitake, put your stems into the soup at this point. Boil for 8-10 minutes. Add palm sugar and dissolve into the stock. Strain the broth and return back to medium-high heat. Add chicken and poach in gently boiling stock until cooked through, around 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook through, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Lower heat to medium-low and add coconut milk. If your coconut milk is very thick, add more chicken stock if necessary.
  4. Add fish sauce and lime juice, and turn off the heat. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt or more fish sauce or lime juice if necessary.
  5. Divide soup among bowls. Garnish with cilantro, green onion, and chili flakes.

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