Thai Coconut Soup: Tom Kha Gai

College, so far, has taught me a few things:

  • For starters, I now know where to get the best pizza at 2 am (avocado, tomato, feta, please!)
  • I know that kindness is powerful; if you ask with a smile, the cafeteria workers will “fix that peanut butter machine for ya, baby!”
  • Hamburgers are always, infinitely improved with fried eggs.
  • FREE samples!
  • Cereal is a course that immediately follows dinner.
  • FroYo for all occasions.
  • It’s okay to eat at any time of day.
  • What’s a “meal?”

As you can see, I’ve been ruined.

Truthfully, I’m nowhere near ruined.  That being said, it’s a new year and all, and I’d love to work on some of the bad eating habits that I’ve picked up in college.  Today’s Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup is easy enough to make in a dorm room.  It’s a recipe that shocked me with its ease and flavor.  Usually I don’t crave Asian flavors, but this tangy, hot, and salty bowl of comfort is the exception. :)

You may not have these ingredients in your panty, and I don’t suggest that you buy all of them.  Fish sauce, Lemongrass, and Coriander are key — in that order.  You can skip the other three and save yourself a lot of money and effort. However, you CANNOT leave out the heat, especially if you’re making this for me.  Regular red pepper flakes can substitute for Thai Chiles, but don’t leave them out.  Galangal or “Thai Ginger” . . . we couldn’t find this and left it out, which is frankly atrocious because “Tom Kha” means “boiled galangal.”  You can use regular ginger (preferably from the knob in your freezer, because we all know that we can freeze ginger by now, riiight?) or leave it out. Lastly are the Kaffir Lime Leaves, which Central Kentucky doesn’t supply.  I say, take ’em or leave ’em. 

This is the perfect lunch.  It comes together in 20 minutes.  It’s light in calories, but nottt in flavor.  I made it with my friend JP, and we hardly had time to catch up before our bowls were empty.

Thai Coconut Soup: Tom Kha Gai

JP lives in NYC, and this recipe is from one of his favorite restaurants, Shiok.  It’s tangy because of lime juice, salty due to fish sauce, and sweet from coconut milk.  We also added soba noodles, boiled in the stock, for a heartier meal.  Make this instead of chicken noodle soup and you’ll never look back. 

Makes 2-3 bowls of soup, Preparation time: 15-20 minutes


Good quality Chinese chicken stock – 1 cup

Coconut Milk (we used light) – 1 cup

Fresh or frozen lemongrass- 1/2 a  stalk

Galangal – fresh – 6 slices

Kaffir Lime Leaves – 2 (hand-torn)

Thai bird’s eye chillies (or Serrano chillies/ Red Pepper Flakes) – 2-3 (big slices so you can avoid them easily)

Fish Sauce – 1 tbsp

Lime juice – 2 tbsp

Sugar – 1/2 tsp

Coriander (cilantro for the Americans) leaves – 2 tbsp

Boneless chicken breast, chopped – 1 breast

Straw mushrooms (or regular button mushrooms) – 4 (sliced)


For the lemongrass, use only the bottom white part (about 6 inches) and discard the woody grass part of it. With the flat side of a cleaver or a heavy object, pound and bruise the lemongrass so it releases the flavor. Cut into 2 inch segments.

Put the stock into a pot and bring to a boil. Toss the galangal, lemongrass, sugar, and lime leaves in. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, chillies, fish sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Finally, add the chicken and mushrooms and cook till the chicken is just cooked. The moment you see it turning all white on the outside, it’s 90% done.

Turn off the heat, add lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves. Test for saltiness and sourness. You should get the earthy flavour of galangal, noticeable amount of saltiness, sweetness from the coconut milk, and a fair bit of lime flavour, with a hint of chilli in the background. If required, adjust with more fish sauce (salt) and lemon juice (sour).

18 Responses to “Thai Coconut Soup: Tom Kha Gai”
  1. This is one of my fave soups of all time!!!!! I’ve made it myself and I didn’t use lime leaves, though I really wish I had!

  2. cereal is the best course after dinner :)

  3. mmm cereal is the best college food…ever. breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert, whatever!

    and this soup…mmm :)

  4. tan says:

    that looks amazing +
    great job!!!
    i would love to try it ^_____________________^

  5. That looks SO good! I have got to buy some coconut milk! :D

  6. mom of t.g. says:

    This soup was souper! Go enjoy yourself at the Food Blog of the South and knock their socks off with your presentation. Love you bunches! Mom

  7. Celeste says:

    Hey there!! It was so great to meet you, too! I’ll be following along, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new recipes you whip up! :)

  8. I love this! A little sriracha and a little rice and I am in heaven.

  9. Charles says:

    Dear Ateenagegourmet,
    Thanks for the above, Thai food varies from one restaurant or chef to another, but there are some basic Thai dishes that every chef will know how to make to perfection with one recipe or another. The exact ingredients and flavors will vary, but anyone selling Thai food should be able to make you some of these basic, yet extraordinary tasting, dishes.
    Nice One!

  10. Avocado tomato feta pizza? Yes please! That was my one disappointment in coming to college. No awesome pizza :(

  11. Luke says:

    What do you mean when you refer to the “knob in your freezer”?

  12. addalittle says:

    Love this it looks so tasty!
    It would be great if you could check out my blog too, it’s if you have time! :)

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Thai Coconut Soup: Tom Kha Gai « A Teenage Gourmet Straw mushrooms (or regular button mushrooms) – 4 (sliced) HOW TO MAKE IT […]

  2. […] Thai Coconut Soup from A Teenage Gourmet […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146 other followers

%d bloggers like this: