Tom Kha Kai (Chicken in Coconut Soup)

Tom Kha Kai is actually pretty straightforward to make, as long as you have the right ingredients.  You start by infusing a broth with fresh, fragrant herbs such as kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal. The galangal is a key component of this soup and provides a sharp, earthy, somewhat citrusy flavor.  It is known as “kha” in Thai and is actually what the soup is named for (tom = to boil, kha = galangal, kai = chicken).


  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken, sliced finely
  • 4-5 kaffir lime leaves, deveined and torn
  • 1 inch piece of galangal, sliced thinly
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced into 2 inch lengths and bruised
  • 3 red Thai chili peppers, bruised
  • 1 cup straw mushrooms (or any other mild variety), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice


  1. Prepare your fresh herbs by slicing the galangal into paper-thin rounds, cutting the lemongrass into 2-3 inch lengths and bruising with a mortar and pestle or back of a chef’s knife, and tearing the kaffir lime leaves into half or quarter pieces.
  2. Combine the chicken broth and water in a medium-sized pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium to medium high heat. Add the prepared fresh herbs and bruised Thai chilis and allow to simmer for 10 to 30 minutes, until a the aroma of the herbs is fairly strong.
  3. Remove the herbs with a strainer, allowing the Thai chili’s to remain in the pot. Add your thinly-sliced chicken, mushrooms, and coconut milk. Allow to cook until the chicken is cooked through, being careful not to overcook it.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, season the broth with lime juice and fish sauce to taste. I generally start with 1 Tablespoon of each; however, the amounts will vary depending on the saltiness of your chicken broth and the acidity of your limes. The predominant flavors should be hot and sour with a more subtle saltiness and creaminess. If it is not hot enough, press the Thai chilis against the side of the pot with a spoon to release more spice.
  5. Once the chicken and mushrooms are cooked through and the soup is seasoned to your liking, Delicious Tom Kha Kai soup is ready serve with hot jasmine rice and enjoy!

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