Tom Kha Gai… Without Leaving the House

Homemade Tom Kha Gai

Last night I made a variation of Tom Kha Gai (a Thai chicken soup with galangal & coconut milk) without leaving the house. I wanted something relatively light but spicy.  But instead of ordering from a restaurant, I figured I could pull a pot of soup together without a trip to the store. Lately I’ve been experimenting with recipes inspired by Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine with good results.  These days there are good resources for every level of home cook, from books to blogs, magazines to apps- there’s no end to kitchen advice.  I did a quick online search but I found recipes with too many steps than I had patience for last night.  My own cookbook collection includes Dorothy Rankin’s book,  Noodle Fusion: Asian Noodle Dishes for Western Kitchens (2000, The Crossing Press). Bingo!  I found a simple recipe that could easily be adapted, and no trip to the store was required.

To be clear, I don’t assume you have a jar of Tom Yum paste or even coconut milk in your pantry. But if you really like Thai food, these items are good  foundational ingredients to keep at the ready.

Dragonfly brand Tom Yum Paste

I made some stock from a chicken I bought last weekend from Growing Things Farm at the Ballard Farmers Market.  The now frozen stock was minimally seasoned, and it worked well in this Thai-style recipe (meaning I didn’t add in strong herbs like rosemary or thyme).  I had about 4 oz. of firm tofu left in a container from earlier this week, and about that much chicken meat pulled from the stock carcass.  Everything else is a staple in my kitchen, and probably yours, too.  It took less than 30 minutes to make this soup.

Tom Kha Gai Soup

Yields about 4 main course servings

  • 4 oz. thin rice sticks or vermicelli (a half a package of Thai Kitchen brand Thin Rice Noodles works well)
  • 2-3 tbsp Tom Yum Paste (Dragonfly brand is really good, but it has MSG)
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk (I use light), or 1 3/4 cup fresh
  • 2 cups chicken stock or clear fish stock
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced thin, diagonal
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup small grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz firm tofu, rinsed and diced
  • 1 to 2 fresh Thai bird chilies, seeded and minced or red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, fresh squeezed lime juice, and shredded chicken (optional)

Place noodles in a pan and cover with boiling water.  Set aside to soak for 10-15 minutes.  Drain under cold water and set aside.

In a stockpot, add the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the celery, tofu, peas, tomatoes, coconut milk and Tom Tum paste and stir to dissolve the paste.  Bring to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes.

Add the softened rice noodles and stir.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.  At this stage, I added in some chopped cilantro sprigs, a few squirts of lime juice and some red pepper flakes for color and heat.

Serve hot in individual bowls and garnish with fresh whole cilantro sprigs, more lime juice, some cold shredded chicken (because I had it) and chopped fresh chile or more red pepper flakes.  I used up vegetables in my crisper, but I would have used mushrooms, carrot or green beans if I had them.  This soup base is flexible for experimentation.

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