Thai Tom Kha Kai soup is one of the highlights of Asian cuisine. It is extremely tasty, but also fresh and exotic. It is the kind of soup that makes you happy immediately. And makes you dream of exotic places. Try and convince yourself by making this tom kha kai in your own kitchen! Later on in the article we will disclose what tom kha kai exactly means, and whether the flag really covers the load in this case.
How to make Thai tom kha kai soup
This Thai tom kha kai soup is very easy to make and also ready in half an hour time. The only risk is that you do not have one or the other ingredient at home as standard. But that can be the challenge of trying something new. Or, for example, you can simply omit the lemongrass. There is worse to happen in life.
A few preparations to make tom kha kai
As usual, we start by finely chopping the vegetables, and in this case also the chicken.
We cut the mushrooms into slices. I've worked with mushrooms here. But it becomes even more exotic if you use Japanese shiitake, for example.
Then we finely chop the ginger. First we remove the bitter peel. We then cut the remaining yellow ginger root into small pieces. In fact, ginger is not the original ingredient for a tom kha kai soup. Later in this article we will learn that this must actually be a galangal root. But you have to go to a specialty store to find that. That's why we've opted to use ginger as an alternative here.
We cut the chili pepper in half and then remove the seeds. Then we finely chop it. About half will go into the soup. We keep the other half aside for finishing at the end.
Remove the ends from the spring onions and cut them into rings. Most of it will go into the soup at the end, but we keep a part of the green rings aside for the finish.
We also finely chop the cilantro. It will go into the soup at the last. You can also keep a few leaves aside to garnish the soup at the end.
Trim the ends of the lemongrass stem. Then we cut it into two or three equal pieces, depending on the size. Next we will crush the pieces with the flat side of the kitchen knife. We will fish the lemongrass out of the soup at the end. But we want it to impart its flavor to the soup. That is why we crush the outer structure so that the aromas and essential oils from the inside find their way into the soup.
Finally, we finely cut the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. So that we don't have to start cutting into our soup plate with a knife.
Making the tom kha kai
First we bring the chicken broth with the coconut milk to the boil. Use a sufficiently large pot for this. There is more to come and we also want to control the risk of boil-over.
Then we add the lemongrass, half of the chili pepper, the ginger, the fish sauce, the lime juice and the brown sugar. We want these flavors to mix well.
Once the soup is back to a boil, we also add the chicken pieces. They can now simmer for about ten minutes. The chicken needs to cook, and as mentioned, we want the flavors to integrate well.
If you serve the soup as a meal soup, you can cook the rice noodles in the meantime. Normally they don't need much time to cook, so you can do this in between. It is best to check the packaging for the correct cooking time.
When the rice noodles are ready, you can drain them and divide them over the soup plates.
Finish and serve tom kha kai
During the last two minutes, add most of the finely chopped spring onions and cilantro to the soup. We want them to be well heated and slightly cooked, but still crunchy. And we keep some aside for the final finish.
Now scoop the soup into the deep plates (with the rice noodles if desired). Then there is the finishing touch with some of the remaining chili pepper, some green rings from the spring onions and possibly also a cilantro leaf.
But what exactly does "tom kha kai" mean?
As you can imagine, tom kha kai is Thai, and it means the following:
- tom: soup
- kha: galangal
- kai: chicken
So basically it is a Thai soup with galangal and chicken. The basis for the soup is always a broth with coconut milk. You can also make many other tasty soups with that soup base. For example, you can also use pork, shrimp or fish.
You can also vary with the vegetables. In Thailand, the cilantro will usually be in it. But in Laos, for example, you will also find bamboo or dill in it. Lime leaves are often added to the soup for flavor. But just like the lemongrass you have to take them out of the soup before serving.
But what exactly is galangal?
According to the linguistic wording we are eating a Thai coconut soup with galangal and chicken. But did you ever see galangal in the supermarket? Did you ever hear of it at all?
So that needs to be clarified. Galangal is often referred to as Thai ginger. And this explains of course everything. Instead of using the original we have a close alternative with ginger. A galangal root tastes like a young ginger root. Which tastes differently than the grown ginger roots we know. But close enough. Both roots also look quite similar, although galangal is paler and harder.
Learn more about tom kha kai and galangal
- Tom kha kai (Wikipedia).
- Galangal (Wikipedia).
- Thai recipes (Eating Thai food).
- What is galangal? (The spruce eats).
Discover more fascinating and surprising Asian recipes in the following articles:
- Laksa curry chicken soup.
- Sweet and sour Thai chicken with peaches.
- Easy Thai pumpkin curry with chicken.
- Thai curry with pork and pumpkin.
- Asian orange chicken.
If you speak Dutch, you can find the Dutch version of this recipe on gerechtenweb.blog.