Tom Kha Gai (Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk and Galangal)

We’re having a cold and rainy start to spring in Cape Town.  No one is complaining though as we need every drop of rain we can get.  As I always want to make soup when it rains I decided to make Tom Kha Gai from one of my favourite food blogs –  She Simmers.

The Stock

I started off by making chicken stock the evening before I made the soup.  Adrienne bought a huge soup/stock pot at the beginning of winter so there was more than enough of room for 3 chickens (free range of course) and 6 chicken backbones.

 Tom Kha Gai

We always freeze the backbones when we cut it out for spatchcock/butterflied chicken.  There’s such wonderful flavour in that part of a chicken for making stock.

Put the chicken and backbones in the pot with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, turnips, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves. You need to pour in just enough water to cover the chicken and vegetables.

Tom Kha Gai

Simmer covered for 1 1/2 hours.  After the stock finished cooking  I took the chicken out and removed the meat from the bones. I refrigerated the meat and returned the bones to the stock, leaving it to cool overnight.  I figured that the stock would absorb even more flavour by doing this.  It was a cold night so I was pretty sure we would not get food poisoning from the stock sitting out overnight.

Tom Kha Gai

You can find the Tyler Florence recipe that I used to make this stock here.

Even after using some of the stock for the Tom Kha Gai my freezer is now well stocked (excuse the pun).

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai

Adapted from a recipe from the She Simmers blog.  You can find the original recipe (it’s really a tutorial)  here.

Serves 2-3 as a main course with rice

  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 450g chicken cut into bite size pieces (I used the meat from the chicken that I used to make the stock)
  • 200g mushrooms – halved or quartered (I used dried mushrooms that I bought at the Asian supermarket and re hydrated – I have not idea what kind of mushrooms it was)
  • 5-6 red chillies – smashed with a cleaver, mallet or pestle
    The recipe calls for bird’s eye chillies – I could not find any so used some random red chillies – not sure what they were.
  • 5cm piece of fresh galangal, sliced crosswise
    I’ve never seen fresh galangal in South Africa. I used some preserved galangal – not ideal but I figured better than dried galangal.
  • 4-5 fresh Thai lime leaves.
    Something else you don’t get here. I had to settle for some dried leaves.
  • 4-5 limes
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (optional – not in original recipe)

Put the coconut milk, chicken stock, Thai lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal in a pot.

You should be able to get preserved galangal at most Asian grocery stores.

Tom Kha Gai


Bring to a very low simmer and give it a minute or two to allow the lemongrass and galangal to infuse the liquid.

Add the mushrooms and chicken. I used these dried mushrooms from the local Asian grocery store which I re hydrated.  Probably not very authentic as I think they were Chinese mushrooms but it worked in the dish.

Tom Kha Gai

Keep the temperature at a low simmer making sure that it doesn’t boil.

The recipes says to simmer until the chicken is cooked through. I used the chicken from the stock that I made which was already cooked.  I let it simmer for about 20 minutes to let the flavours develop.

Add the chillies and remove the pot from the heat.

Tom Kha Gai

Add the fish sauce and juice of 2 limes.  Stir and taste.  Add more fish sauce and lime juice if necessary.

You should get those distinctive Thai flavours of sour, salty and sweet. It’s predominantly sour, then salty.  According to the original recipe you should get the sweetness that you need in this dish from the natural sugar in the coconut milk. I though that it needed a bit of help so added a teaspoon of palm sugar.  Of course you can use regular sugar if you don’t have palm sugar.

Stir in the coriander leaves and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Tom Kha Gai

When we ate in Thailand I noticed that they often left the lemongrass and lime leaves in the food when they serve it.  This is the way we do it at home now. I always mention to guests that I’m not lazy in not taking it out – that’s the way you’re supposed to serve it.


What I really enjoyed about this dish is how much the flavours of the lemongrass and galangal (yes even my preserved galangal) comes through.  It’s much more pronounced than in a curry where the curry paste often tends to dominate.

We refrigerated and reheated the leftover soup with all the herbs and the chillies still in it.  The result was a very flavourful but quite hot soup.  We love a bit of heat so were quite happy with the result but don’t do this if you prefer mild soup.

We loved this soup – but then again we’ve never had a Thai meal that we didn’t enjoy.






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