Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

February 3, 2015
Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) - This simple, aromatic soup is a complete meal in a bowl. A broth made from coconut milk, it's filled with chicken, mushrooms, and authentic thai flavors

It's not often that I like being snowed in

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although this past weekend, it seemed just fine.

There hasn't been much snow this winter, but with 8-10″ in the forecast, Saturday night we built a fire, opened a bottle of wine, and hunkered down.  In the morning we woke up to a view out our window, that was one of the prettiest in recent memory.

If there was ever a perfect snow, this was it.  Heavy and wet; wonderful for making snowmen and sledding.  The kind that sticks to the trees, and makes you feel like you're living in a wintery wonderland.

Sunday, while my husband was outside with the snowblower and a big cigar, I stayed inside and made soup.

In the kitchen, stirring something on the stove is always a place I've always felt good.  There's little room for self-doubt tending to a big pot of something.  Chopping and sautéing have always been calming.  I love the feel of ingredients in my hands, and it's fun to improvise

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) - This simple, aromatic soup is a complete meal in a bowl. A broth made from coconut milk, it's filled with chicken, mushrooms, and authentic thai flavors

Prior to us marrying, cooking was a solitary activity for me.  Like writing, something I immersed myself in alone; another introvert's escape.  During prior lives, I've cooked many meals for kids, friends, and family.  These meals were certainly an act of love, rather than a collaboration

When we were dating, we cooked for each other; winning the other's hearts through our stomachs.  I loved watching him scribble on favorite recipes he'd taped to the insides of the cabinet's doors.  He cheered me on as I expanded my healthy culinary horizons and started writing.

I love him extra for being gracious about failures, and excited by my successes

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When the kitchen became ours, I assumed we wouldn't be able to cook together.  He's from Chicago. Me?  An Iowa farm.  His family cooked Polish meals during the holidays; mine casseroles and coconut cream pies.  His cooking style relied heavily on the grill; mine baking sheets and slow-cookers

Somehow though, we always seem to end up in the kitchen together. “I'll chop the onions,”  I said one night, stepping up to the cutting board with my glass of wine

“Can I stir that for you?”  he said the next, while I chopped veggies

This was just the beginning of a beautiful kitchen romance.  He's made me far more adventuresome; a recipe is simply an idea, a place to start.  He's learned pancakes for breakfast nearly every day, is something to be embraced.

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup) - This simple, aromatic soup is a complete meal in a bowl. A broth made from coconut milk, it's filled with chicken, mushrooms, and authentic thai flavors

I've come to wonder if our harmony in the kitchen isn't a metaphor for the way we are together.  We hold each other up and share a sense of purpose.  We've both introverts in our own ways, heading off to our respective corners of the house, and able to sit at the same table at the coffee shop and work, side by side.

For much of my life, I've felt oddly alone.  I no longer do

Today marks our first anniversary, and I'm so thankful for and love him so very much.

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Photo Credit: Thanda Siridhab

This past week a friend and I went for lunch, an introduction to her favorite soup.  I rarely finish my meals.  This one I did, bought a pot to go and searched for a similar recipe to make at home.  It was simply that good

At the restaurant, as in Thailand, Tom Ka Kai is eaten more like a curry instead of a soup.  Paired with a plate of rice and spooned onto the rice before taking a bite.  It's made with chicken, and usually mushrooms.

There are many recipes to be found, although choose one that uses galangal.  It's key, with its earthy spiced flavor that many compare to ginger.  It gives the soup a subtle kick.  The soup isn't meant to be extremely spicy, although it does taste best with some heat.  Adjust the chilies accordingly or have a bottle of Sriracha at the ready

Also, be careful not to let the coconut milk boil, and stir it frequently  (to avoid curdling)



~ Adapted from Small Footprint Family

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)


  • Broth
  • 6 cups chicken broth, low-sodium if you have it
  • 2 (13.5 oz) cans coconut milk
  • 1 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 stalks fresh lemongrass, lower white parts chopped into 1" chunks, then smashed with a knife
  • 6 red shallots, peeled and chunked (or 3 smashed cloves of garlic plus a bit of red onion)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 4 - 5 fresh red bird’s eye chili peppers, smashed with a knife (more or less, depending on your tolerance for heat)
  • 3" piece fresh galangal root (ginger can be substituted, although galangal is really what makes the dish authentic)
  • 10 fresh kaffir lime leaves (I used dried)
  • 1 Tbsp natural sugar

    (Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado)
  • Soup
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
  • 10 oz sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ cup Thai fish sauce
  • 6 - 8 fresh limes
  • sweet red pepper rings cherry tomato halves, or carrot slices (optional)

  • For Serving
  • chili oil, Sriracha, cilantro leaves with tender stems, and lime wedges


  • In a medium-large soup pot, add the chicken stock, coconut milk, sea salt, and pepper.
  • Add the spices
  • (It works well to put all the seasonings into a tied cheesecloth or milk nut bag, and allow them to steep into the broth. It will save you from having to strain the pot of soup later on)
  • Bring to a simmer (be careful not to boil) to allow the flavors to infuse into the broth (~ about 10-15 minutes or to taste)
  • Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, or simply remove the cheesecloth/nut milk bag.
  • Add the coconut sugar to the broth, if using, and bring it to a low simmer of about 160-180 degrees. (Again, be careful not to allow the soup to boil)
  • Add chicken, mushrooms, and other veggies to the pot and simmer until the chicken is completely cooked and the mushrooms are tender (~ 5-10 minutes)
  • Once the chicken is cooked through, add the smashed chilies and remove the pot from heat.
  • Add the juice of 2 limes, along with the fish sauce. Stir, taste, and adjust
  • Garnish with cilantro leaves, lime juice, and hot sauce, if using.
Serves: 6
Nutrition + Show
Calories 395
Total Fat 18.1g
Saturated Fat 11.6g
Carbohydrates 10.6g
Fiber 1.1g
Sugars 7.7g
Protein 44.3g
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  • Reply heydave February 3, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    5 stars
    A very lovely post and a completely wonderful soup!

    I have to recommend the heat: hot sauce helped this already great dish sing and dance its way into the sublime!

    • Reply sexyveggie February 3, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Happy Anniversary .. I love you

  • Reply Thalia February 4, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Thai has to be one of my favourite cuisines ever – I just love all the spices, flavours and aromatics… so this tom kha gai is just perfect for me!

    • Reply sexyveggie February 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      Ahhh Thalia .. thank-you!

  • Reply Amy February 4, 2015 at 8:48 am

    This soup looks so delicious. I just want to sip all of that flavorful broth right up!

    • Reply sexyveggie February 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      Amy .. thank-you so much!

  • Reply 37 Paleo-Friendly Thai Dishes | Paleo Grubs May 22, 2016 at 9:11 am

    […] 35. Tom Kha Gai […]

  • Reply Ana De- Jesus May 23, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I love the feel of ingredients in my hands as well.There is something oddly satisfying about it isn’t there? I like the sound of this coconut soup with Quorn chicken. I am a massive fan of Thai food x

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