Tom Kha Gai Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass


I've been monitoring the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake, and my heart weighs heavily for those enduring tragedy and uncertainty from that disaster. I've only been in one major earthquake in my life, Loma Prieta in 1989, which registered 6.9 on the Richter Scale. And while that was considered a big one for California, it is in orders of magnitude smaller than the one in Japan. In fact, because of the logarithmic measurement of the Richter Scale - meaning that the magnitude goes up exponentially - the 9.0 Japanese earthquake was roughly 900 times stronger than Loma Prieta. That's astounding considering that Loma Prieta was able to topple the upper deck of the Bay Bridge and ignite several fires throughout San Francisco. I can't imagine the damage nor the human tragedy that Japan must be sustaining at this time and my heart goes out to them. 


The last few days have been abnormally busy. Other than wanting, ahem... needing to put my feet up after a long day, I've been craving simple comforts. A good small cup of dark hot chocolate, warm quiet baths, and steaming bowls of savory soup, and my day no matter how hard is instantly uplifted. Lately, my go to soup has been Tom Kha Gai, a chicken coconut soup accented with citrusy fragrant ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and lime juice. It's a soup that is gently awakens your senses, warms your belly and eases your mind.


From start to finish, this soup can be made under an hour. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, firm tofu and vegetable broth can easily be substituted for chicken, with very subtle differences in flavor. If you are in the New York area, kaffir lime leaves can be found Eataly, and occasionally at Whole Foods. However, if you do not have access to either, grated lime zest works well as a substitute. For a richer broth, I recommend using coconut milk from Native Forest, which I found at Whole Foods or Chakoah, which can be found at most Asian supermarkets.

Tom Kha Gai Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass
From Williams Sonoma
Ingredients
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 8 large slices peeled fresh galangal or 4 slices peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 large lemongrass stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces, crushed
  • 16 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn in half, or grated zest of 1 large lime
  • 2 cans (each 14 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon red chili paste
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (or firm tofu for a vegetarian option), cut into bite-size pieces 
  • 1/2 lb fresh white mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced 
  • 5 small fresh red or green chilies, sliced crosswise paper-thin (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
Method
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the broth, galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves. Place over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, add the coconut milk, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and chili paste; mix well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and simmer until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and simmer until tender, about 1 minute more.
  3. To serve, ladle into warmed bowls. Float the chili slices and cilantro leaves on top. For a more satisfying meal, place a scoop of soft steamed white rice at the bottom of the bowl prior to ladling. The rice will plump up with all of that wonderful aromatic coconut broth. 
Serves 4 to 6.

43 comments:

Belinda @zomppa said...

Watching it all from afar, I can't even imagine what's happening on the ground.

This soup looks very soothing and comforting. The keffir limes and lemongrass is wonderful.

Bridgett ~ La Bella Cook said...

I experienced the earthquake in SF as well but I cannot imagine what Japan is going through. It almost doesn't seem real when I watch the news footage. Heartbreaking.
This soup would lift anyone's spirits. I love all the flavors going on.

Zoe said...

This coconut soup is so lovely. I can imagine the delightful creamy taste of this soup.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Japan has been on my mind a lot lately too. My heart goes out to those people. We haven't been through an earthquake, but a category 5 hurricane, which we have gone through, can get your attention too.

Beautiful soup Christine. I'm missing my big lemongrass plant that I had in my garden in the Bahamas. It was huge and after hurricanes, it would eventually come back.
Sam

Kim said...

The disaster in Japan is so terribly heartbreaking, unbearable even.

I am so glad to read that you are doing well though. This is such an exciting time for you! This soup looks sensational and full of bright flavors.

I'm assuming that you've had the chance to go to Eataly since you mentioned it in this post. I'd love more than anything to go there. It must be a food lover's paradise.

From the Kitchen said...

My heart goes out to the people of Japan as well. The death and destruction is simply overwhelming and I'm amazed at their dignity in handling the situation every time I see news footage.

Tom Kha is one of my go-to soups at my favorite Thai restaurant. The owner gave me a kaffir lime tree a few years ago. I bring it in for the winter and so far, so good. Whole Foods has lemon grass preserved in jars that is pretty good if one can't get fresh. I've grown the fresh and it freezes very nicely. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe.

Glad to hear that things are going well with you!!

Best,
Bonnie

La Table De Nana said...

We are all thinking of Japan:( So tragic..

and with the snow..it all looked so bleak..even worse..if at all possible..
Just so sad..


Your photos are exquisite.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Last year in England there was a minor earthquake in my area. It was in the middle of the night. I slept right through it LOL. I'm so glad I missed it. Unfortunately, looks like so many people in Japan are effected by this tragedy :(
Beautiful soup, great flavours, and super exotic. A real winner.
*kisses* HH

Simply Life said...

oh that soup looks incredible!

lostpastremembered said...

I love this soup. It really is a comfort food. I love the spicing of it. I hope you continue to pamper yourself... so important to an expectant mother... no time for pampering once they arrive!!!

Andrea @ HighLowFoodDrink.com said...

I too have been saddened by the events in Japan. The nuclear crisis and its impact on the people there worries me. All we could do was donate money to the Red Cross, but wish we could help out more.

Thank you for your soup recipe. I've been making vegetarian meals for the past week (very proud of my husband for happily eating it all without complaint!) and the vegetarian version of this soup will be perfect to continue my veggie streak! =)

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

The situation in Japan breaks my heart every day.

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

The situation in Japan breaks my heart every day.

Penny said...

Lovely soup for sad times.

Claudia said...

Sweetly comforting and nourishing. These are tough days and Japan is never far from my thoughts. I look for simple. The soup soothes.

Mari said...

I love lemon grass! This must be one delicious exotic soup.

have a great weekend :)

El said...

I can't imagine either. It's a nightmare.

I hope you're feeling well these days and that you get to rest and relax as much as possible.

This looks like a wonderful soup for a light spring lunch.

sally said...

We always get Tom Kha Gai soup when we go out for Thai food. I can't wait to try and make it at home with your recipe.

Magic of Spice said...

Those suffering in Japan are in our thoughts as well...
This is a truly lovely soup, I can just imagine the wonderful aroma.

Gloria said...

We have a earthquake a year ago and was terrible! so I understand perfectly how Japanes live now and the nuclear danger is terrible. All days I pray for them and think in this lovely country that we love a lot.

Beauty soup Christine (/love soups)and hope you are OK, take care, xx gloria

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I can't imagine what they are going through in Japan right now. We must pray for a calming effect.

Your soup looks wonderful and a soothing way to end the day.

lisaiscooking said...

I can't even imagine how frightening an earthquake must be. I keep following the news and trying to really comprehend what has happened. Comfort food like this lovely soup sounds perfect right now. And, I'm so lucky to have a new kaffir lime tree where I can pluck leaves as needed.

sweetlife said...

My heart goes out to all effected, a perfect bowl of comfort, exsctly what you need these days...your virtual bshower is totally cool..try to rest, take care

sweetlife

nancy at good food matters said...

Hi Christine--this is a favorite soup of mine, and I especially like your photographs--the isolated colors just pop against the neutral gray-black counter.

Japan's continuing, unfolding tragedy and crisis is likely the worst I have ever seen--unreal, apocalyptic, heart-wrenching. we send all our best thoughts to them.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

Yum! one of my favorite soups!

kat said...

That is just the kind of soup I crave when I'm a little under the weather

Tasty Eats At Home said...

My heart goes out to Japan and those people affected by the recent tragedies. I've never been in an earthquake, tsunami, or anything that drastic so I can't truly comprehend the situation.
This is one of my favorite soups. LOVE it.

Victoria said...

I too am deeply saddened by all the tragedies on the other side of the world. I was in an earthquake a few years ago in Cali (5.6 I think) and can't imagine how bad this 9.0 one was.

I'm glad you've been taking care of yourself, and filling yourself with foods that make you happy (as best as you can without overindulging in sweets). This soup looks like a perfect use for that kaffir lime leaves, I remember when you bought them :) Take care!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

This does sound wonderful and soothing, Christine. I think we all could use a warm hug too.

Deb in Hawaii said...

One of my favorite go-to soups--such great flavors and good comfort food for sad, trying times. Great photos as usual. ;-)

Mind Movies 2.1 said...

Looks enticing and yummy!

Table Talk said...

I too experienced the Loma Prieta quake---while driving in my car. The memories are still so vivid even after all these years.
This is one of my all time favorite soups, and agree, it offers so much comfort---to all of the senses~

Emily said...

Looks like a wonderful soup, Christine. Lemongrass adds such a nice flavor.

The Japan crisis has also been in my mind..thoughts and prayers to all affected.

tasteofbeirut said...

I was so excited when I discovered a huge bush of lemongrass at our house in the mountains (in Lebanon) and will add this recipe to the ones I am collecting to put that lemongrass bounty to good use. Sounds like a marvelous soup!

Barbara said...

Yes, Christine, pamper yourself while you can!
And this tempting soup will certainly lead the way. What marvelous flavors!

Quay Po Cooks said...

I love anything that has the flavor of lemon grass. This is my favorite soup. If you let me, I will drink this everyday. I pray for sufferings to end for those who are affected.

pigpigscorner said...

Lovely flavours! The situation is Japan is really heartbreaking. My thoughts ad prayers are with them.

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

love this soup stay well not long until your little miracle arrives :-)

Beth said...

What a beautiful soup. I can see why it hits the spot for you!

5 Star Foodie said...

This soup sounds amazing, excellent flavors with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and lime juice!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

A beautiful soup - one of my favourites!

A Canadian Foodie said...

I recall that Earthquake. My daughter made a penpal friend from the tragedy as there were these kinds of educational initiatives at the time. They lost touch, which was sad, but that did seem like the worst that could possibly happen - yet, it wasn't. So so sad.
The soup, however, I have had and it is deadly delicious!
YUM.
Valerie

OysterCulture said...

This is one of my favorite soups too, pure comfort. Guaranteed to make you look at about anything in a more positive perspective.

My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this and other terrible tragedies. Its hard to imagine the incredible impact.