Today, I will show you how to make “authentic” Tom Ka Gai, a Thai coconut chicken soup and my favorite soup ever.
You can trust me on this as my girlfriend is Thai and she’s taught me how to make it about a year ago. Best of all, she’s approved of my authenticity of making good Thai coconut soup. She has also lived in Thailand most of her life so this is going to be as authentic as you can get, next to being a professional Thai cook from Thailand.
This is the northen Chiang-Mai style, just in case you are Thai.
Here’s the ingredients you will need before we begin:
7 or 8 shallots – These are basically Thai-style onions I’d say. If you don’t wear contacts like me, just make sure to wear something to protect your eyes unless you are a hardcore cook who doesn’t mind some eye stings.
Chicken Breat Meat – Chicken is the main ingredient for Tom Ka Gai, if you prefer something like shrimps, that could be a good substitute. Get the breast meat without bones so you get all “meat”. About 1.5 pounds of chicken should do.
Mushrooms – You can get some regular mushrooms like me or even get some special ones but make sure “shrooms” are included in your soup.
Limes – You will need limes for sure as they will control how “sour” your soup will taste, a key ingredient among most Thai dishes. You can also use the leftover Limes after you use it for cleaning or refreshing your kitchen counter-top, so don’t just throw them away after cooking.
ChaKoh Coconut Milk - You will need a can of coconut milk and I highly suggest an authentic ChaKoh brand, most Thai people will prefer this one over any others.
Galanga (White Ginger) - You will need galanga, or white ginger as people call it in America. This is the main, main ingredient that will soak your soup into a special “herb” taste so get this, not regular ginger. These things are hard to find sometimes but your local Chinese market should have them. They basically look like giant ginger so…
Thai Chili – You will need these Thai chilis for spicying up your soup. You probably need about 10-15 of these but you can “freeze” any leftovers in your freezer to use it over the next 6 months or even more.
Tiparos Fish Sauce – You will also need fish sauce to make the soup taste right, I highly recommend Tiparos brand and nothing else.
Cilantro – You can add cilantros right before you serve the soup.
Tomatoes (optional) – I didn’t include tomatoes in this session (because I forgot) but you do have an option of adding 1 tomatoe, sliced up for more “sour” taste.
Lemon Grass(optional) – Most Thai dishes use lemon grass but this one doesn’t need it unless you really want to add some lemon grass. (I am not stopping you from extra work.)
Directions on How to Make Tom Ka Gai
Once you have all the ingredients. Next, you will want to start cutting up everything before you begin cooking.
First, cut up all the shallots sorta like shown here. Take the covers off and slice them into small pieces.
Next, cut the skin off the galanga (or white ginger). You need to do this so the flavor from galanga juice is fused into the soup. You don’t really eat the galanga (but you can). You just need about 1/2 handful of this stuff as shown in this picture so don’t go overboard.
Then, cut the galanga into little slices.
Next, get about 5-10 Thai chilis. Depending on how spicy you want the soup to be, you will want to add less or more. As for me, I usually add 15-20 chilis, and I like it super-duper spicy so just add little bit at a time if you can’t handle the hotness.
The smaller you cut the Thai chilis into, the hotter the soup will be so cut accordingly!
Next, cut the chicken breast and mushrooms into small pieces.
Now you are ready, get about 2-3 cups of water and start boiling it along with your shallots, Thai chilis, galanga (white ginger), and mushrooms.
When the pot starts boiling, add the whole can of coconut milk , chicken brests, and optionally tomato slices. Bring the heat down a little bit, let the pot simmer for 5-15 minutes.
After 5-15 minutes, check if your chicken pieces have cooked. If they have, it’s time to start flavoring the soup with lime and fish sauce.
Squeeze about 3-4 limes into the soup and keep adding fish sauce until the soup tastes “just right”.
As a rule of thumb, try to make the soup taste slightly milder (not sour) and slightly not too salty. As the soup “ages” over couple days, it will automatically get more sour and saltier.
Right before serving, add some cilantro pieces for perfect flavor. (Keep the cilantros separate from the soup if you are going to eat it over the next few days.)
This should be a LOT of soup, enough to serve 5-10 people. I usually make it and eat it for couple days since the soup gets better over time.
Last but not least, make sure to put the pot in your fridge so it doesn’t go bad!