Tom Khaa Gai

Tom Khaa Gai
Originally uploaded by c.flessen

I was never really fond of spicy foods as a child. In fact, through most of my life, I have always been skeptical of Thai foods in particular, being of the opinion that the Thais seem to put way too much chilis in their cooking. Things changed, however, when I moved from my Southeast Asian homeland into Europe a few years ago. Whether it is because of the relatively bland nature of the commonly used spices here (salt and pepper are basically it; thyme and rosemary are considered luxury), more exposure to other types of cuisine (believe it or not, there were more Thai restaurants in either Germany or Norway than there were in the Philippines when I left the country), or the fact that it was during that time I learned to cook on my own (and thus realise I could control the amount of spices to use to my own liking), Thai cuisine has become among my favourites. And here Tom Khaa Gai, or chicken soup with lemon grass, is among those I would highly recommend, especially during the cold winter months 🙂

Tom Khaa Gai

2 stalks lemon grass, cut into 3 cm lengths
2 walnut-size galangal (or ginger), sliced thinly
3 kaffir lime leaves (or the zest of half a lime)
250 g mushrooms (button mushrooms will do nicely), sliced
2 medium tomatoes, roughly diced
1 1/2 to 3 fresh Thai chilis, chopped
500 g chicken breast filets, sliced into bit-size pieces
400 ml coconut milk
4 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 – 2 tsp brown sugar

  • In a pan, heat the coconut milk until it simmers lightly
  • Add the lemon grass, the lime leaves and the galangal; let simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes without covering
  • Add about 750 ml of water; allow to simmer
  • Add the chicken, mushrooms and tomatoes; cook for 5 minutes
  • Finally, add the chilis, the lime juice, the fish sauce and the brown sugar; let simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Alternatively, you could also add the chilis, lime juice and fish sauce just before serving the soup instead of cooking them in. Garnish with coriander, or chives if this is not available.

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