Tom Kha Gai (ต้มข่าไก่)

Chicken and Galangal Soup

This is a mild soup, rich with coconut milk and fragrant with lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.  The mushrooms add a pleasant texture and the shallots an additional sweetness.


750 ml coconut milk
2 lemon grass stalks, bottom third only, tough outer leaves removed, then bruised with the back of a heavy knife
5 cm galangal, cut into 1 1/2 mm slices.  No need to remove the skin, just scrub clean.
4 Thai shallots, peeled, then lightly crushed with the side of a heavy knife
400 g chicken breast, skin removed, sliced thinly
2 T fish sauce
1 T palm sugar
200 g cherry tomatoes
150 g mushrooms (oyster, straw or button)
3 T lime juice
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
2 red chillies, sliced, seeds removed

  1. Put the coconut milk in a wok or saucepan over a low heat.  Add the lemon grass, galangal and shallots.  Bring to a gentle boil.
  2. Add the chicken, fish sauce and palm sugar.  Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms.  Simmer for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat off and add the lime juice, kaffir lime leaves and sliced chillies.

The taste should be sweet, then sour and salty, but with slight bursts of heat from the chillies.

  1. The coconut milk will split as it cooks.  This is normal for this soup.
  2. If you don’t like chillies, they can easily be omitted.
  3. Not all versions of this soup include the tomatoes, but they add a lot of colour.
  4. The soup can be garnished with a few coriander leaves, if desired.
  5. The soup can also be made with prawns or fish.  Vegetarians could leave the chicken out and add more mushrooms instead, and replace the fish sauce with light soy sauce.
  6. Serves 4 as part of a Thai meal.

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