Friday, March 15, 2013

Tom Kha Gai

Tom kha gai is a delicious, creamy Thai soup. I first had it at a soup cookoff at my previous job. I'm still new to Thai cuisine since my family ate pretty American growing up. I've come to love Thai food, but my husband and kids can take it or leave it. At least they humor me and try it when I make it. Bountiful Baskets had a Thai veggie add on pack last week so I bought it and was excited to make the tom kha gai. I always thought it meant coconut chicken soup, but perhaps that was simply a descriptive definition instead of literal. Apparently it means chicken galangal (blue ginger) soup. Frankly, I don't care what it means because I like it. Here is the recipe I used:

2 cans coconut milk
1 can lite coconut milk (or the water from 1 coconut...I used the coconut water)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 stalks lemongrass (remove bottom 3 inches and outer layer, bruise with knife and cut into 2 inch chunks)
5 kaffir lime leaves (leave whole) or the juice of 1-2 limes
2 inches of gingerroot, peel and slice thinly
1 shallot minced (about 3 Tbsp)
1-3 tsp sriracha (depends on preferred spice level)
1.5 pounds chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces (do not cook first)
about 8 oz mushrooms (shitake and oyster work well)
2-3 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Infuse the coconut milk: in large sauce pan pour all coconut milk (and water if used) and broth. Bring to simmer. Add ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, shallot and 1/4 tsp hot sauce. You can put the solid ingredients in a mesh bag to make it easier to remove later. Allow this to infuse for 15 minutes.

Prep the chicken and veggies. Cut into small pieces while the broth is infusing.

Balance the flavor of the soup: taste the soup and let rest and simmer between each step. Remove the lime leaves. Add chicken. Remove lemongrass. Add mushrooms. Remove ginger. Taste. Add fish sauce and brown sugar. Taste again. Let cook at least as long as it takes for the chicken to cook (10 mins). The goal is to balance spicy, sweet, salty and sour. Add more fish sauce, hot sauce, lime juice and/or brown sugar to achieve preferred taste.

Serve with diced tomatoes, cilantro and jasmine rice.

This recipe doesn't take as long as you might think. If you're making and trying it for the first time, be prepared to taste it repeatedly. Let your taste buds guide you to the "right" combination of flavors for your family. My husband and oldest daughter are pretty mild, so I kept the sriracha low in the batch but loaded up on it in my own bowl. And as most soups, it was better the next day. mmmmmmm

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