Tom Kha Gai – literally, Chicken Galangal Soup – is a coconut-based Thai soup famed for its subtle sweet and sour flavour profile. Though usually eaten as a curry – spooned onto rice – tom kha gai also works well as a noodle soup; the form it takes in the recipe below.
Featuring many quintessentially Thai ingredients – galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves and coconut – tom kha gai has become a frequently-visited dish in Thai restaurants. A well-balanced soup, it is incredibly accessible, especially for those who aren’t such a fan of the heat the cuisine is renowned for.
Though most recipes would tell you to substitute ginger for the galangal if you aren’t able to find the latter, I suggest otherwise. Their flavour may be roughly similar, but if you do a direct comparison you’ll find it easy to tell the two apart.
Use ginger in this recipe and you risk drowning the delicately balanced soup in a flavour that shouldn’t rightly be present. If you can’t find galangal simply omit it from proceedings. You may not achieve quite the right effect, but at least your tom kha gai won’t be ruined.
The amount of chilli and fish sauce used below is best described as moderate. If you enjoy heat or the rather unique flavour of fish sauce feel free to be a little more liberal with both. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find three tablespoons of fish sauce in a tom kha gai of this size.
Like my recent recipe for Chicken Chow Mein and older rendition of Fragrant Chicken Biryani, this recipe for tom kha gai is an excellent way to use up leftover roast chicken. Naturally, using leftover chicken has the added benefit of reducing the cost of the dish.
Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Galangal Soup)
- 2 shallots, roughly chopped
- 2 lemongrass stalks, finely sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 bird’s eye chillies
- 2 inch piece of galangal, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil
- 400ml tin of coconut milk
- 8 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp palm sugar
- 500ml chicken stock
- 150g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
- 200g leftover chicken, in large strips
- 2 nests of egg noodles (100g)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced to serve
- Using a food processor, blend together the shallots, lemongrass, garlic, chillies and galangal until you have a paste. Add a little water if necessary.
- Heat 3 tbsp of the sunflower oil in a wok until smoking. Quickly stir fry the paste before adding the coconut milk, lime leaves, fish sauce, palm sugar and chicken stock. Reduce to a medium heat and leave to simmer.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a separate wok or frying pan and stir fry the mushrooms and chicken pieces on a high heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes and set aside.
- Prepare the noodles by bringing them to the boil in a saucepan, cook until al dente. Add the mushrooms, chicken, salt and noodles to the coconut soup and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
- Serve in large bowls, topping each with a little lime juice and a sprinkling of finely sliced spring onion.