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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!