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Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Ka Gai) recipe

Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Ka Gai) recipe

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This Thai-inspired soup is light, spicy and delicious. It's the perfect soup that can be enjoyed anyday of the week.

5 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 2 teaspoons groundnut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 (2.5cm) piece fresh ginger root, grated
  • 15g chopped lemon grass
  • 3-5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoon crushed chillies or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin or to taste
  • 1 skinless chicken breast fillet, cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 140g pak choi, finely chopped
  • 1 litre water
  • 275ml coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:45min ›Ready in:1hr

  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat groundnut oil.
  2. Stir in garlic, ginger, lemon grass, crushed chillies, coriander and cumin. Cook until fragrant, 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in chicken and onion and cook, stirring, until chicken is white and onion is translucent, 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in pak choi and cook until it begins to wilt, 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in water, coconut milk, fish sauce and fresh coriander.
  6. Simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked and flavours are well blended, 30 minutes.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(1)

Reviews in English (1)

It's hard to get to the real flavour, you just have to keep trying adding the soy sauce, lime or kaffir limes for the right flavour.-22 Aug 2012

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 (5 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (14 ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 1 medium lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
  • 2 leaf (blank)s kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 ounces vermicelli pasta
  • ½ (8 ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 stalk green onion, chopped

Heat 1/2 tablespoon peanut oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Saute onion in the hot oil until the onion begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add celery, bell pepper, cumin, ginger, and coriander cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add water to the same pot and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. When water has evaporated, add remaining peanut oil increase heat to medium-high. Quickly saute the chicken, letting it brown nicely on either side, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper while cooking.

Add the vegetable mixture back to the pot along with chicken broth, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, tomato paste, Sriracha sauce, lime leaves, garlic, and basil bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add vermicelli noodles and cook, stirring occasionally to loosen, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the bamboo shoots and green onion. Serve.


  • Trim away and discard the root end and the top 3 inches of each stalk of lemongrass, along with any brittle leaves. Pound each stalk lightly with the spine of a cleaver or an unopened can. Cut each stalk crosswise into 2-inch lengths and set aside.
  • In a large serving bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, scallions, and half of the wild lime leaves. Set the bowl by the stove, along with small dishes containing the galangal, lemongrass, and remaining lime leaves the chiles (if using), the chopped cilantro and the sliced chicken and mushrooms.
  • In a medium saucepan, commbine the coconut milk and broth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves. Add the chicken and mushrooms. Return to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors and cook the chicken.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, pour the hot soup over the seasonings in the serving bowl, and stir well. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve hot. Pass around the chiles for those who want them.

Recipe Notes

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What You Will Need for Tom Kha Gai

  • Chicken &ndash thigh meat has a bit more taste and you need some bones for a quick stock so grab chicken thighs
  • Galangal &ndash this is essential. If you follow some other recipes on the web you&rsquoll be cooking Tom Khing Gai instead &ndash which isn&rsquot a dish any Thai knows!
  • Lemongrass &ndash a woody fragrant spice which is a thick grass and used extensively in Thai cooking.
  • Coconut Milk
  • Shallots
  • Straw Mushrooms
  • Lime Juice
  • Tamarind Paste
  • Fish Sauce
  • Kaffir lime Leaves
  • Dried Chilies
  • Thai or Japanese Parsley
  • Water

The ingredients for Tom Kah Gai Laid Out

The delicious Tom Kha Gai &ndash is your mouth watering yet?


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Recipe: Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

Note: Almost every Thai restaurant in Southern California serves one version or another of this soup from our intern Jet Tila. And no wonder: The combination of coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce and lemon grass from the stock is sweet and fragrant. What’s even more amazing, once you’ve made the stock (which can be frozen and used for many other soups), the whole thing comes together in 15 minutes--that’s less time than it takes to call in an order!

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 cups Thai Chicken Stock

2 (3-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained

1 to 3 roasted Thai peppers

3 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (not light)

1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage

Kaffir (Thai) lime leaves, for garnish

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

* Bring Thai Chicken Stock to simmer over medium-high heat in large pot. Add chicken, mushrooms and peppers and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice and coconut milk. Add chopped cabbage and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Divide among serving bowls and garnish each with 1 to 2 lime leaves and cilantro.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 216 calories 1,270 mg sodium 12 mg cholesterol 16 grams fat 10 grams carbohydrates 11 grams protein 2.18 grams fiber.

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

This Thai chicken stock is the base for the soup recipe.

3/4 to 1 cup thinly sliced galangal

6 stalks lemon grass, lower thick portion only, pounded

10 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves

* Place chicken carcass in stockpot. Add water, galangal and lemon grass. Roll lime leaves and crush lightly with hand, then add to pan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain. 6 cups. Each cup: 20 calories 580 mg sodium 0 cholesterol 1 gram fat 1 gram carbohydrates 2 grams protein 0 fiber.

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Tom Kha Gai Recipe | Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | ต้มข่าไก่


LOVE all the heart-warming flavors in Tom Kha Gai: coconut milk, chicken, kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal, Thai chili peppers and lime juice! Coziness with a kick in a bowl! The perfect way to warm up any day!


  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 3 inch section of fresh Thai galangal or 6 – 8 dried galangal pieces, thinly cut, no need to peel
  • 3 c. chicken stock
  • 3 c. coconut milk (Chaokoh brand is my favorite)
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into small bite-size pieces
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms of your choice, but not shitake (too overpowering)
  • 1 small onion quartered and sliced 1/4 in. thick
  • 4 – 8 Thai chilies, smashed so you can see the inside
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, thinly slivered
  • 4 – 6 tbsp. fish sauce, to taste
  • Juice of 4 – 5 limes, to taste
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. palm sugar or brown sugar, to taste
  • handful of cilantro leaves


  1. Cut off the bottom your lemongrass stalks and discard. Remove the loose outer layer of leaves. Slice lemongrass at an angle, about an inch apart up to where the grass blade starts. Smash the lemongrass and chilies, in order to release the flavors, with the side of your chef’s knife or in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Place lemongrass, thinly sliced galangal, and slivered kaffir lime leaves in soup pot with coconut milk and chicken broth.
  3. Bring to a low boil.
  4. Add onion, mushrooms and chicken. If you think it needs more liquid add more chicken stock, or water.
  5. Keep at a low boil, until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
  6. After chicken is cooked, add smashed chilies.
  7. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer and then turn off the heat. But if you really want it spicy, add the chilies sooner. The longer the chilies sit in the soup, the spicier it will be.
  8. Add lime juice, fish sauce and sugar to taste. I like my tom kha gai more sour followed by a light salty, sweet flavor.
  9. Sprinkle cilantro leaves on top.
  10. Serve with jasmine rice. Enjoy!


This is a rich soup since I made it one part coconut milk and one part chicken broth. If I’m making this for my friends who love rich soups, I keep it this way. If I’m making it for my Thai hubby who doesn’t like it so rich, I do one part milk to two parts stock.

If you taste your soup after the chicken is cooked, and it doesn’t seem like you can taste the herbs, the herbs might not have had the chance to infuse the broth enough. That’s happened to me! I let it cook on low for a few minutes longer to draw out more of the flavors.

But keep in mind, that even as your herbs sit in the soup in your fridge, more of the flavors will come out, so I prefer making this soup ahead of time to let the herbs infuse the broth while it sits and warming it up before I serve it.

Best Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Kai or Gai)

If you follow this blog, you know I am such a huge fan of Thai food! I believe the Thais have perfected the art of balancing flavors.

If you have ever tasted at least one Thai dish, let’s say – Pad Thai – you know that this is apparent. With one taste of Pad Thai noodles your tastebuds are immediately treated to a wonderful burst of flavors – sweet, salty, tangy or sour, and sometimes with a spicy kick – all rolled into one dish!

This is exactly what Tom Kha Kai is all about. A delicious combination and layering of flavors in one bowl of soup!

Look at the ingredients used in this yummy soup! The combination of aromatics, spices, herbs, and seasonings plus the creamy coconut milk all work together harmoniously to create one deliciously complex bowl of soup! Your tastebuds are in for a treat!


  • Chicken – boneless and skinless breast(s) weighing up to 1.5 pounds are best for this because they don’t require long cooking.
  • Lemongrass – some groceries carry this and definitely may be found in Asian stores. Remove the tough outer layer and use only the whitish bottom part of the stalk. Bruise the stalk using a rolling pin or meat mallet or even by using a mortar and pestle. This releases the oils in the stalk that provide the lemongrass flavor. Add the entire bruised stalk when cooking this soup.
  • Galangal is an aromatic rhizome in the ginger family that has a wonderful citrusy flavor. If you cannot find galangal (available in Asian stores), you may replace it with ginger. They won’t taste the same because ginger has a sharper more pungent spicy kick but using ginger would add another layer of flavor to this soup so it’s ok to replace galangal here (but if you can find galangal – even better!)
  • Shallots – this is more popular in South East Asian cooking than regular onions but feel free to replace with one large onion if you cannot find small shallots. These small reddish bulbs are available in Asian stores.
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves – These dark green-colored shiny leaves are actually composed of two leaves attached to one another. Very fragrant with a strong citrusy flavor this is what gives Thai dishes their classic aroma and flavor!
  • Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream – make sure to use good quality canned coconut milk and cream preferably ones with no additives.
  • Lime Juice – freshly squeezed is best. The lime juice adds freshness and tang to the soup.
  • Fish Sauce – this is the secret that explains why Thai dishes (and South East Asian dishes in general) are so delicious! Just a little goes a long way with this sweet-salty sauce. It adds a savory umami complexity to any dish! I personally cannot live without this in my kitchen.
  • Red Chilis – use Thai red finger-length chilis. The Thais would probably use about 6-8 chilis, in this soup! I settle for 2-3 as this can be spicy. Try 1-2 first and add some more, as desired, until you reach the heat level you can tolerate.

Lemongrass, galangal (or ginger) and lime juice all provide that delicious tang and freshness. Add to these the kaffir lime leaves which not only add such a delicious aroma to the soup but likewise imparts a tangy, spicy, lime-like zestiness to soups such as this one.

Coconut milk and cream not only provide that yummy creamy texture but also adds a hint of sweetness that provides a lovely contrast to the other tangy and salty flavors of this soup.

Fish sauce and salt both add the savory umami flavor which elevates this soup.

Don’t forget the spicy kick from the chilis which cut on the creaminess of the coconut milk and cream and gives the soup with that extra zing!

Best of all this Thai Coconut Chicken Soup is super easy to make and can be done in less than 30 minutes! Yes, you read that correct – less than 3o minutes.

So make sure to try this soup this winter! I guarantee you’d be making this time and time again!

Tom Ka Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup)

Image courtesy:

  • 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken meat
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Cut chicken into thin strips and saute in oil for to 2 to 3 minutes until the chicken turns white.

In a pot, bring coconut milk and water to a boil. Reduce heat. Add ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, cayenne powder and turmeric. Simmer until the chicken is done, 10 to 15 minutes.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe (ต้มข่าไก่) – A Tutorial for Beginners

I’d waited two years to introduce Tom Kha Gai (RTGS: tom kha kai) (ต้มข่าไก่), one of the most loved Thai dishes of all time, on this blog because — and this probably won’t make a lot of sense — I’ve loved it so much and for so long that I didn’t know how to write about it. I still don’t. And while some dishes, e.g. Pad Thai (which is even more popular), have been left out mainly due to apathy, this one had been put on hold solely due to fear. (Um, not anymore. On November 27th, 2011, I published my Pad Thai recipe.)

Tom Kha Gai isn’t just any dish it’s one of my top five most favorite dishes in the world, Thai or otherwise. At a risk of taking anthropomorphism of food a bit too far, I felt that if I let myself write about Tom Kha Gai with the kind of unbridled affection from the depth of my bowels, I’d bore — or scare — you. Yet, if I held back, I’d be remiss for not giving the dish the love it deserves.

Overwhelmed with affection for this soup, I’ll write in numbered points.

Sliced paper thin, tender galangal tips provide crunch and herbal aroma to this dish.

1. Tom Kha Gai is a soup made of chicken (Gai) cooked (Tom) in coconut milk which has been infused with galangal (Kha), lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.

2. Tom Kha Gai is seasoned primarily with lime juice and fish sauce. Palm or coconut sugar is not necessary as the natural sweetness of coconut is enough for me. In fact, I find cloyingly sweet Tom Kha Gai kind of disgusting, though not as vile as Tom Kha Gai seasoned with lemon juice or vinegar.

Since the purpose at hand is infusion, the entire lemongrass stalk, even the fibrous part, can be used.

3. In our household when I was growing up, Tom Kha Gai was made with bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken that have been cooked until tender. Coconut cream (the “head” of coconut milk or หัวกะทิ) would be added toward the end along with the fresh herbs, followed by fresh bird’s eye chilies and fresh cilantro. The broth isn’t so thick and creamy, yet it is very flavorful due to the chicken bones. Some street vendors also throw chicken innards, feet, and congealed blood into the mix. Rarely would you find that kind of Tom Kha Gai at a Thai restaurant overseas. Most of the time, you’ll get thick and creamy coconut broth with friendly boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s the version I’m presenting here. You just have to employ a different cooking method to make up for the loss of savoriness in the broth.

Part of your mise en place: smashed lemongrass, torn kaffir lime leaves, sliced galangal, smashed chilies

4. Some restaurants have taken to adding roasted chili oil or sometimes Nam Prik Pao (Thai chili jam) to Tom Kha Gai just as they do to Tom Yam. It’s a bit strange to my eye and tongue, and I don’t recall ever seeing it made that way in Thailand growing up or even now.

5. Tom Kha Gai is always relegated to the “soup” category in cookbooks and on restaurant menus. Here’s an annoying, hair-splitting, philosophical question: is everything broth-y a ‘soup’? Is the “soup” designation based on its appearance or the way in which it is served and consumed? You decide. The fact is that Tom Kha Gai, like most Thai dishes — soupy or not — are almost always served with rice as an entrée, as part of the whole meal ensemble and not as a stand-alone. [That little bowl of Tom Yam or Tom Kha Gai which your local Thai restaurant serves you with a couple of mini spring rolls as part of your lunch special is a westernized practice.]

6. How do I eat Tom Kha Gai? (I delusionally assume you care to find out.) This freaks out pretty much every American friend who has dined with me at various Thai restaurants in the US: I usually order a serving of Tom Kha Gai from the dinner menu which usually comes with rice, dump the rice into the Tom Kha Gai bowl, give it a stir, and eat it like that. The one-bowl approach is not a sophisticated (or traditional) way of eating Tom Kha Gai, but I like it that way. Regardless, eating this dish with rice is a common practice. Tom Kha Gai is, after all, an entree — a soup entree to be eaten with rice.

Straw mushroom is my favorite, but oyster (or white button) works too. Anything but shiitake!

7. The recipe which I’m sharing with you is a compromise between the traditional/old-fashioned-rustic Tom Kha Gai (with bone-in and skin-on hunks of chicken and gnarly, curling chicken feet flailing about in the pot) and the kind made by dissolving some bottled Tom Kha paste in coconut milk. If you don’t like bones in your soup, don’t feel guilty. Likewise, if you absolutely cannot find fresh galangal (without which Tom Kha isn’t Tom Kha), fresh lemongrass, and fresh kaffir lime leaves, don’t feel bad about using the paste. It’s still better than using dried galangal, dried lemongrass, and dried kaffir lime leaves which, from my experience, yields probably the most disgusting Tom Kha Gai — if you can even call it that — I’ve ever had any time anywhere. Broth infused with the dried version of those herbs tastes like really bad herbal medicine.

8. The problem with boneless, skinless chicken breast meat is that it’s susceptible to being overcooked. Your broth could be seasoned well, but if your chicken is tough and rubbery, that takes the joy out of the whole experience. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are much better, if you ask me. But if you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, be sure to slice the meat against the grain (though, as you can see from the pictures, I broke my own rule …) and cook it very, very gently as if you’re poaching the chicken meat. Chef Michael Pardus shows you how to poach shrimp the right way in the video below, but the concept applies to boneless, skinless, bite-sized pieces of chicken breast meat as well.

Note: Tom kha gai is usually made with bone-in, skin-on chunks of chicken (as explained here). The bones turn the plain water-coconut milk liquid into a delicious broth in the process of long, slow cooking. The low-temperature cooking method is recommended only when you opt for boneless, skin-less chicken breast meat.

Start off by infusing the coconut milk-chicken stock mixture with the fresh herbs. Get the temperature of the liquid to the level ideal for poaching, then add the chicken breast meat last. If we had gone with the old-fashioned Tom Kha Gai, I would have suggested you use the same method explained in my Old-Fashioned Tom Yam post. But since we’re using bite-sized pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast meat, we need to slightly alter the cooking method by adding the chicken meat to the liquid last and cooking it very, very gently.

Also, since there’s very little flavor in boneless, skinless chicken breast meat to impart to the broth (that’s why people don’t make chicken stock out of boneless, skinless chicken breasts), the concentrated chicken stock and the fish sauce will be the primary sources of umami in this light-weight version of Tom Kha Gai. Neither is optional.

Tom Kha with oyster mushrooms (the best vegetarian option, in my opinion) with added Nam Prik Pao

9. Can Tom Kha Gai be made vegetarian? Here are my thoughts:
Named as such, the dish has meat — chicken, to be precise — in it by definition which implies that it is not meant to be vegetarian. For those who abstain from meat, you can use tofu or, as I have done from time to time during my detox phases, assorted wild mushrooms which are very meaty and delicious. A friend of mine loves sliced cabbage (regular or savoy) in lieu of the gai in her Tom Kha Gai. My grandmother sometimes threw in hearts of palm, hearts of coconut, or sliced banana blossoms into the mix. None of this is traditional yet all of these meat substitutes are delicious. I don’t like green leafy vegetables in Tom Kha, though. In fact, anything in the cruciferous family, except for green cabbage, tastes pretty bad to me when cooked this way. But that’s just an opinion.

10. Regardless, when gai is omitted, you can’t call it “Tom Kha Gai” just as you wouldn’t say “vegetarian barbecued pork.” Tom Kha Hed (mushroom), Tom Kha Tao-Hu (tofu), or Tom Kha Ka Lam Pli (cabbage) — whichever applies — would be more appropriate.Oh, and don’t forget to boost the flavor by using very concentrated vegetable stock and seasoning the broth with salt instead of fish sauce for the use of soy sauce would be a surest way to kill this lovely dish.

Though anemic-looking, this coconut-y broth packs in lots of flavor from concentrated chicken stock

This recipe yields 2-3 servings of main dish soup (meant to accompany rice)

Watch the video: Easy Tom Kha Gai Best Tom kha Gai Soup Recipe ตมขาไก Thai Chef Food


  1. Fearnhamm

    Same a urbanization any

  2. Jorma

    This is a funny phrase.

  3. Arashinris

    It is not compliant

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