In the course of our interview on Goddess Alive Radio on January 3, 2014 with Lakshmi Devi Costello from Lakshmi Ayurveda, she mentioned that one of the healthiest soups that is full of all natural “medicine” is Tom Kha Gai – Thai Coconut Chicken Soup. The healthful ingredients are so abundant: lemongrass, coconut milk, galanga root, garlic, chiles, kaffir lime and more; this is a bowl-full of prevention for the winter season and a complete comfort food for me.
On my food site, The Hungry Goddess, I just happened to have a fabulous recipe for how I make Tom Kha Gai Soup! This recipe is relatively quick for a soup – the challenge is gathering all of the ingredients but the good part is that you can re-use the ingredients for some other incredible dishes – like Green Thai Curry. Check Asian Markets for the garlic chili sauce and the galanga root. Whole Foods and other markets may carry Thai Kitchen which is now selling some of the more unique and hard-to-find herbs if you cannot find them fresh – like kaffir lime leaves and even Galanga. My favorite place to get kaffir lime leaves, though, is Pollen Ranch – the Kaffir Lime Leaf Powder is incredible in scent and flavor.
Tom Kha Gai is a fragrant soup with a rich mix of sweet and sour and salty flavors in the broth. There is a bit of heat depending on how many peppers you add but I like to use the Chili Garlic Sauce to control the heat. If you want more sweet, add another teaspoon of palm sugar. If you want more sour, add more lime juice. If you want more salt and tang, add a bit more fish sauce.
Enjoy the Tom Kha Gai and to hear more about Ayurvedic principles, listen to the archive of our interview with Lakshmi. One of my favorite Ayurvedic principles is that Food is Medicine – YES!
Ingredients for Tom Kha Gai
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2-3 cups chicken stock (I use the organic/gluten free from Costco)
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon palm sugar (you can substitute brown sugar)
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, washed and chopped in chunks (the fresher the better!)
- Chili Garlic Sauce at Asian Market
- 3 red shallots, peeled and chunked
- 3 cloves of garlic smashed
- About an inch of ginger sliced in a big round
- Pinch of whole coriander seed plus a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
- 2 chili peppers, halved (thai chilies are great or serranos – control the heat with the seeds and number of chilies)
- 1.5 inch chunk of galanga root, chunked (this is the secret ingredient – try Asian Markets or the new Thai Kitchen Galanga Root at Whole Foods)
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, coarsely chopped (Whole Foods carries this in the produce section or get the powder from Pollen Ranch)
- 1 – 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (really adds a nice heat that is not overwhelming or you can use thai chiles)
Chunks into the Soup
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut to 1″ pieces (you can use breasts, but the thighs come out very tender and add to the richness of the soup)
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms (regular mushrooms or wild mushrooms or whatever you prefer)
- 1-3 Tablespoons fish sauce (Add incrementally and taste before increasing. This is an important ingredient and tastes better in the soup than it smells coming from the bottle)
- 1 can baby corn, drained and chopped to 1/2″ chunks
At the End
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice or fresh lime wedges
- lime zest
- Extra can of coconut milk
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 orange pepper in strips
- 1/2 cup grape tomatoes halved, or 2 plum tomatoes coarsely chopped
- Mini Sweet Peppers make a nice addition cut into rings
Make the Broth
Combine all broth ingredients (coconut milk, stock, salt, sugar, shallots, garlic, ginger, coriander, galanga, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili sauce), bring to a low boil, and simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Strain the broth through a sieve and make sure you squeeze the ingredients to push flavor out into the broth.
Chop chicken, mushrooms, and baby corn and add to pot with broth. Add fish sauce, and lime zest if using. Simmer lightly until chicken is cooked all the way through – approx 30 minutes but test the chicken. If you notice that the coconut milk and broth are separating, I just added another 1/2 to 3/4 can of coconut milk and that was perfect.
Finish and Serve
Add the lime juice to the broth in the pot. Add some chopped cilantro, sliced peppers, chopped tomatoes to the bowl just before serving and fresh lime wedge on the side.
Serve hot. You can store the soup in the refrigerator and after the flavors have blended, it should taste even better!