Tom Ka Gai

Tom Ka Gai is a coconut-based chicken soup from Thailand. Certainly, it’s hard to duplicate many Thai dishes outside of Thailand for lack of ingredients. Most of them call for things like galangal and kaffir leaves, both of which aren’t the easiest to find. But they can also be substituted with almost no negative effect in some recipes.

Such is the case with Tom Ka Gai, a wonderfully warm and inviting soup that’s a staple of Thai food. Many Thais will eat this soup with rice, either dipping the rice in the soup or pouring the soup onto rice in bowls. (This is also how they enjoy Tom Yum, another delicious Thai soup.)


  • 1½ inch piece of galangal (substitute ginger), peeled and sliced
  • small bunch of cilantro with roots
  • 4 kaffir leaves, torn (or peel from one lime)
  • 1 stem of lemongrass, halved lengthwise
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • juice of 2 small limes
  • 1¾ cup coconut milk (not paste)
  • 1/2 pound skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1 red chili, seeded and sliced into thin strips (I used red jalapeños)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar + more to taste
  • optionally: ¼ white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • optionally: 10-15 whole, small mushrooms (if desired)


  1. Put the galangal (or ginger), cilantro roots, kaffir leaves (or peel from lime), lemon grass, and 4 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add fish sauce and lime juice, then lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the cilantro roots and, if used, lime peel from the mixture. (If you used kaffir leaves, leave them in.)
  4. Add coconut milk and bring back to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
  5. If using, add onion and mushrooms to the mixture and let boil for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about two or three minutes or until the chicken is soft and milky looking.
  7. Add the sliced red chili and the brown sugar to taste and mix well. (I recommend at least a tablespoon of brown sugar because of the bitter aftertaste this soup has without it, but your results may very depending on the ingredients you used.)
  8. Take off heat and serve in bowls with a dash of cilantro leaves on top. You can optionally add cilantro leaves into the soup proper just before taking off heat.

Source: Steamy Kitchen






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