This Tom Kha Gai soup is a wonderful Thai Coconut Chicken Soup, flavored with lemongrass, ginger and lime. It’s Thai takeout you can make at home!
We don’t have a ton of great restaurants in our area, so we don’t eat out very often. That’s just fine by me since I like to cook at home anyways, plus it’s a whole lot healthier. We do happen to have two decent Thai places near us, so we eat Thai food pretty often. Any time we need takeout, that’s what we usually get. And any time we actually go out, it’s usually Thai, too. We love Thai food, so it works out pretty well.
We definitely have our go-to dishes. No matter where we get Thai food, Nick almost always gets Pad Thai, and I almost always get Pad Kee Mao. They rarely disappoint, so we rarely branch out.
In the last couple months, I went to Thai food with a couple different friends. When they both ordered the same thing– Tom Kha Gai soup– on separate trips, I figured I had to try it and see what all the fuss was about. I did, and it was amazing! It’s a delicious chicken soup with coconut milk and all sorts of yummy Thai flavors like lemongrass and cilantro steeped in.
On my next trip to Thai food with Nick, I made him try it. And now we have a new go-to dish! So yummy.
Since I’ve mastered our other favorites at home– Pad Thai and Pad Kee Mao— and make them from time to time, I decided to try making Tom Kha Gai at home, too. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find all the unique Thai ingredients, but between Whole Foods and a couple substitutions, it worked.
Tom Kha Gai is traditionally flavored with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal root. This version uses lemongrass (which I found in the herb section of Whole Foods– and I plan to try planting in my garden soon), and substitutes regular lime zest and juice for the kaffir lime leaves, and ginger root for the galangal.
Most of the restaurant versions of this soup I’ve had use straw mushrooms. I couldn’t find them anywhere, but any funky mushrooms will work– oyster, maitake or shitake. If you can’t find any of those, criminis or even button mushrooms will work in a pinch. I used a combination of maitake (found at Whole Foods) and criminis.
On the search for an at-home version, I found this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, and went from there.
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer layers removed, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and halved
- Zest of 1 lime, cut in strips with a vegetable peeler
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
- 8 oz shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
- 1½ tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- Chili oil, cilantro, and lime wedges, for serving
- Using the back of a knife, lightly smash lemongrass and ginger. Bring lemongrass, ginger, lime zest and juice, broth and water to a boil in a large soup pot. Reduce heat and simmer until broth is flavored, 8–10 minutes.
- Add chicken and return to a boil. Reduce heat, add mushrooms, and simmer, skimming occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are soft, 20–25 minutes. Remove lemongrass, ginger and lime zest strips and discard.
- Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar.
- Serve immediately with chili oil, cilantro, and lime wedges.
This soup came out so delicious! Since I like it extra spicy, I ended up stirring in a little sriracha, too. As with most soups, this one got better and better the longer it sat in the fridge (which… wasn’t very long before it was all eaten up!). The flavors were so fresh and bright. This was the first time I’ve cooked with lemongrass and I loved it, so now I’m on the hunt for some to plant in the garden!