Tom Kha Gai

Okay, so I KNOW this is an art blog. And I KNOW my resolution was to do three projects each week– implication that they’d be ART projects, but… I think this counts. Because… it does. And because I was having such a low week and couldn’t get started. And because it was definitely a project.

For the last month or two, I’ve been craving Tom Kha Gai– Thai Coconut Chicken Soup– off and on. A week back, I had the opportunity to get thai food with a friend who is back from London for a few weeks. (I’ll have to tell you about the present he got me later.) I got a whole pot of Tom Kha Gai in the awesome special flaming soup pot they have– one day I want my own flaming soup pot. I enjoyed it thoroughly, especially with my throat roughed up as it was.  I enjoyed the left overs too. And then… I still wanted more. Apparently the craving was not appeased.

I looked up a few recipes, and though I was initially a bit daunted, I at first thought I’d do it with friends, then got impatient. So… I purchased the ingredients and made the first batch last night. Many ingredients I had to find at the local seafood market– lemongrass, galangal, palm sugar, kaffir lime leaves, good quality coconut milk, etc. The fish sauce I had previously, and the mushrooms and chicken stock could be found in any grocery store.

I planned to get cooking as soon as I got home from work, as tuesday we usually just have left overs or fix our own food.  It was the perfect day. Except– I got home and my mother had brought home chicken. Nonetheless, I went at it at midnight (being that I am a night owl anyhow).

Rather than use just one recipe, I cobbled together three to get it as close to the restaurant type as I could. What I ended up with was this (or thereabouts):

  • 2 cans coconut milk (chaokoh brand this time…)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, sliced and ground (retain upper stalk for extra flavor)
  • 1 oz (as best I could estimate) galangal, grated (or finely chopped if you are surprised to find you don’t have a grater after all)
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half.
  • 2-3 thai chilies, chopped (or 4 if you think it’s not spicy enough because it takes a minute for the kick to catch up. Unless you REALLY like spicy, I don’t suggest adding the fourth chili. Thankfully, I do.)
  • 2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb port0bello mushrooms, chopped (I think I want different mushrooms next time, but oh well)
  • 1 or 2 lumps palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (I’d suggest less)
  • 2 teaspoons red curry (mainly for color, but… didn’t hurt flavor-wise)
  • a large sprinkle of saffron (for color)

Basically, toss lemongrass and stalk, galangal, chilies, lime leaves, and palm sugar into a pot with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil(and if you’re smart, you’ll allow it to boil longer than I did so the lemongrass will soften a bit). Add coconut milk, fish sauce, curry, and saffron. Reduce heat and stir. Add mushrooms and chicken. Cook until chicken is fully cooked.


  • Lemongrass smells AMAZING. Like lemondrops. I want to cook more things with lemongrass just for the smell, and I don’t even like lemons much. It’s a bit woody in texture though.
  • Kaffir lime leaves smell like limes.
  • Galangal is HARD to chop. Even more difficult to chop up tiny. Hence the purchase of a grater as my family apparently lacks one at the moment. Smells like a radishy ginger.
  • Coconut milk soup as I made it was not nearly as orangey-colored as it was at the restaurant. Not sure. Maybe the tamarind stuff in one of the recipes?
  • Fresh Thai basil might have been good.
  • Thai Chilies take a bit to catch up with you. At first taste, they aren’t that spicy, but about 30 seconds later, its much stronger. Keep that in mind before adding extra chilies.
  • I may add bamboo or snowpeas in the future.

Projects for this week down: 1 out 3

Time left: 1 day (I may have to fudge this).

About cassandramarie

Cassandra is a 24 year old soon-to-be teacher, used-to-be poet, and when-I-can mixed-media artist; a bookish little nerd with her head in the clouds and the Lord's Word in her heart. View all posts by cassandramarie

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