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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tom Kha Gai - Thai Coconut Soup

(Thai Coconut and Galangal Soup with Chicken and Oyster mushrooms)


  • 2 Chicken legs with thigh attached
  • 150 grams Oyster mushrooms
  • 100 grams Dton Kha (Galangal)
  • 3 Lemon grass stalks
  • 2 bushels of Coriander (Cilantro)
  • 2 coriander roots (use the root of the bushels)
  • 5-6 Kaffir Lime leaves
  • 3 or 4 Kaffir Limes
  • 20 Prik Khee Hnuu (Thai chilies)
  • 1 cup of Hua Kati (Coconut juice)
  • 1 cup of Hang Gati (Coconut cream)
(NB some canned coconut juice had the cream and the watery part which means dont shake the can - if not then youll need fresh green coconut which you remove the water from and then liquidize the soft flesh for the cream - some Thai food stores will have Gati in sealed bags which has both parts in it. Alternatively you can use cream coconut and add water, stock, or milk instead).
a little fine grain sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 1 cup of Water to dilute the coconut when cooking

Some people like to add tomatoes to the soup too, which works quite well, giving a more acrid and acidic tinge to the taste of the coconut milk.
Instead of Oyster mushrooms, you could add Straw mushrooms or dried Chinese or Shiitake mushrooms to the soup instead. In such a case you must soak the dried mushroom in hot water for about 20 minutes first before adding them.

Canned coconut milk can be solid on opening th...Image via Wikipedia

This soup works with Chicken, Fish and Seafood such as Crab, Squid or Shrimp (or even all three) too.
I suppose you can make it with Pork but i have never seen Thais use Pork for this recipe, nor Beef for that matter. White meats are of course milder which doesn't overpower the soft flavours of the Coconut and Galangal

Preparation Method;

Take the Chicken thighs, clean and chop them into smaller pieces on the bone (if you don't like Chicken on the bone you can fillet it, but Thai people prefer meat on the bone as it has more taste).

Clean the Oyster mushrooms and slice them coarsely, chop off the base of the stalks.

Listen to a Thai song as you read ;

ฟังวิทยุออนไลน์ ที่ izeemusic

Take the Galangal (Kha - ต้นข่า) and slice it into oval slices,  pound the Coriander root (Raak Pak Chee - รากผักชี) a little to bruise it, which releases the flavour. The take the Kaffir Lime leaves and tear them in half, removing the thread in the middle, which is not needed. 

Then take the Lemon Grass (Thakrai - ตะไคร้), and slice it diagonally, after pounding it slightly in the same way as the Coriander (Pak Chee - ผักชี).

6 Fresh Lemon Grass

Left pic - Product from 
6 Fresh Lemon Grass stalks from tastepadthai
6 stalks medium size of fresh lemon grass guaranteed to arrive fresh
If you are not 100% satisfied with the product quality upon arrival, we will replace at no additional charge.
Fresh produce, premium quality products from
Price:      $5.50

Slice the Coriander leaves into 1 centimeter sprigs.

Pour the Coconut milk into the saucepan and add the Coriander, along with 2 teaspoons of salt. Add one to two cups of water and bring slowly to the boil.

Buy now;  Instant Coconut Soup (Tom Kha) Makes 4 Cups or 2 Bowls

Then lower the heat for it to simmer lightly. keep stirring all the time to prevent the Coconut milk from becoming lumpy. Once it has begun to simmer, add the Chicken meat and bring back to simmering point.

Then add the Hang Gati (rest of the coconut juice), and one or two cups more of water, and bring to boiliing point and simmer.
Taste the soup to check how salty it is, and add some Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla - น้ำปลา)  to taste (perhaps one tablespoon might suffice).
Now is the time to add the Oyster mushrooms; Please check and taste the soup a few minutes after they have simmered a little in the soup, as Oyster mushrooms tend to release water when they are cooked, which may cause the soup to lose some saltiness. Add more fish sauce or salt if necessary if this is the case.

Now add the Kaffir Lime leaves, Coriander, and some of the Coriander leaves, leaving some Coriander for decoration to sprinkle on the top at the end when the soup is ready. Close the lid of the pan and simmer.

Squeeze the kaffir Limes to extract the juice and keep in a aucer or small bowl with the chillies (point the chillies slightly in a pestle and mortar or with a meat hammer, or even the base of a cup if you don't have these things). Some people will add the Lime juice and chillies before closing the lid of the pan and simmer along with the soup, but those in the know will not do this as it will make the soup bitter and even separate the coconut juice from the milk. So i recommend that you keep thie juice and chillies aside till the end and add it slightly before serving the soup
here is what the soup should look like now; serve in a bowl and sprinkle some Coriander on the top as an aromatic and colorful decoration to your Tom Kha Gai!

Alternative versions;
Here are some pics of the various alternative styles with varied ingredients made by different cooks, so you can see that in Thai cookery, no two people make things exactly the same. So you shouldn't worry too much about recreating an identical copy as far as appearance is concerned. The version above is however, what i would call the classic reference model for Tom Kha Gai.

Tom Kha Pla Kapong - Coconut soup with Snapper fish

Tom Kha With tomatoes and spring onions added

Thick and creamy - use less water

Tom Kha Kung (Coconut soup with Giant Shrimps)

With Pla Salid Krob (Crispy Pla Salid fish)

Tom Kha Pla Salid (ต้มข่าปลาสลิด) again but different style

Tom Kha Tale (with mixed Seafood)

Thanks to; Krua Klai Baan and Thai Cook Mae Slim , Cooking by May  for pics

Extra research info;
Pla Salid is called Damsel Fish or Snakeskin Gourami in English. In Thailand, we like to place the fish out to dry a few hours in the sun rubbed in salt, and then fry them. This fish is one of my favourites especially in "Yam Pla Salid" (Thai lemony salad with crispy fried Damsel Fish). I shall be posting this recipe with some mouthwatering pics in my next post soon.

 Left Pic; Damsel Fish, or Snakeskin Gourami
 (Trichogaster pectoralis)


Pla Salid Tord - Fried salted Damsel Fish

Pla Salid drying in the Sun

Interesting links;
Taxonomy link for Coriander
Taxonomy link for Lemon Grass

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fried country style Frog

ผัดเผ็ดกบ Pad Ped Gop (fried Frog country style with green peppercorns)

Phad Ped is one of my favourite dishes.. when i lived in Hua Hin i knew this place on a street hawker stall that made the best fried frog Phad Ped i have ever tatsed.. he wopuld fry the frog first to make it crispy before chopping it up and frying again with the mixture. The recipe below uses the traditional method of simple stir frying - this is classic game food - which we call "Aharn Pha" in Thailand (translates literally as "food jungle" - meaning "jungle food" or "forest food". This is because of the use of wild freshly caught game such as frog, wild chicken, squirrel or bird etc as main ingredient. The curry mixes will use also some ingredients which are or were originally found in the wild (such as grachaay and bai kaprao) and will have a mor defty taste and aroma than the regular curries. Prik Gaeng Pha (jungle curry) is almost like Prik Gaeng Ped (red curry paste), except it has what we might call a more wholegrain kind of mix to it. The red Prik gaeng Pha paste has visibly noticeable chilli seeds in it as well as a strong scent of grachaay, whereas the normal red curry paste will be smoother and milder. If you have never tried frog meat you are in for a treat it is something like chicken breast with a more delicate taste to it.

◊ Frog Meat
◊ Makhuea Bro (green baby eggplant)
◊ Grachaay (Boesenbergia Rotunda)
◊ Prik Thai Awn (green peppercorns)
◊ Dry Chillis
◊ Hom Daeng (Schallots)
◊ Takrai (Lemon Grass)
◊ Bai makrud (Kaffir Lime Leaves)
◊ Gratiam (Garlic)
◊ Bai Kapraw (Hot Basil)

Preparation Method

Pound the chillis first along, lemongrass, schallots and garlic.

Mince the frog meat before you start to fry this and keep it handy on the side.

Slice the kaffir lime leaves finely, leave the green peppercorns as they are; just separate the seeds from the twig and place aside with the remaining vegetables.

Put the chillis in the grata (wok), and fry them.

Add seasoning to taste (msg, fish sauce, sugar if you like it sweeter).

put the frogmeat in and sautee until cooked through.

add the eggplant, grachaay, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves and hot basil, and lower the heat, stirring whilst frying.

Here's what the finished product should look like;

thanks to Chef Bonita and Kruaglaibaan website for pics.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Myriads of Som Tam

Som Tam - a world in itself
Pic Left; Som Tam Thai
Som Tam (papaya salad), is a dish that has come to be known and loved by people all over the world. Although most Westerners who didn't get further than their local Thai restaurant in their countries, or the Bungalow/resort restaurant where they stayed whilst in Thailand will perhaps not have seen any of the myriad variations of Som Tam that are to be found in existence. Most tourism orientated establishments only serve Som Tam Thai, which is a sweet tasting concoction using green papaya, carrot, chili, tomato and peanuts with some cane syrup, dried shrimps, fish sauce, msg, lime juice, green beans and schallots. This is the easiest and most universal type of som tam available, as well as the most palatable to general tatses. But for the more adventurous, and most definitely Thai people, there are many other versions which are mostly preferred by the locals in Thailand. The number one preference must be i thing Som Tam Phu Kem Pla Ra (either both Phu Kem and Pla Ra, or sometimes just Phu Kem for those who cannot manage the pungent taste of Pla Ra). Phu kem means salted preserved freshwater crab, and Pla Ra is a kind of salted fermented raw fish, which is placed in salt water in a pot called a "Hai" for a period of up to 2 years to ferment.

Pic left; Pla Ra fermented fish in the Hai
The Pla Ra is then bashed into the Som Tam using the pestle and mortar. Isan people(Northeast Thailand) tend to love Pla Ra the most whereas central Thais cannot stomach it. I myself can't live without it and ask for a few pieces to be put into the som tam so i can chew on the salty raw fish (mmm its sooo good). Many people just ask for the juice from the Hai pot where the fish are preserved in as this in itself has a very pungent and spicy/salty taste. In isan country many people (if in familiar company) will not call it Pla ra, rather "Pla daek", but you shouldn't use this term unless you are with your closest family or intimate friends who can take the coarse speech. Daek means fooder, which is the verb for feeding used solely for animals and not for humans, but although central Thais will scold you for using this term, it is still actually used in general in intimate company or when joking by many Thai people. Not practising what is preached is anyway the norm in the land of smiles (??), so take your scoldings with a pinch of salt.

Picture left; Som Tam Phu Ma
One of my other favourites is Som Tam Phu Ma (Papaya salad with raw blue crab). Phu means crab and Ma means horse.. so; som tam with horse crabs it is. The meat of the horse crab is so fresh and the use of sweet sugar cane paste in the som tam serves to increase the juicy texture of the crab meat. the variations you will find with every single som tam recipe is perhaps as many as the amount of stalls in Thailand, due to the fact that every "Mae Krua" (cook) makes it a ddifferent way according to personal taste. In any case, in Thailand the person ordering always has the right to define exactly which "Soot" they want (soot means "formula"). So you can ask to drop a certain ingredient or exchange it for another. There are therefore almost limitless variations on the way you can have your som tam (sweet, sour, spicy, salty..) as well as the different ingredients which can be added.

tam pha
Tam Sua
I believe 'Tam Sua" (som tam with "Khanom Jeen" ) to be the favourite with the ladies, and you don't see men eat it so often. Khanom jeen is the fresh white string noodles which can be seen eaten early mornings with thin curry sauce and fresh vegetables. The papaya, tomato, green beans, pla ra chilis, nam tan beeb (cane sugar) etc are loosely mixed together with the fresh noodles and served with a slice of lime. This is really a staple snack for Thai ladies of the Northeastern provinces, and perhaps the staple diet of Thailand's "ladies of the Night".

Below Pic; Tam Sua (real hardcore style with lots of Pla Ra juice)

Personally i am unable to eat anything without rice or sticky rice, although central Thais eat som tam just on it's own, the real eater of Isan food should not go without sticky rice. I can put about 3 5 baht bags of it away to one plate of som tam, which i usually order with "laap" or "Hmoo nam tok" as an added dish ( i shall be presenting those dishes in a separate post).

Tam Pha (hunter/jungle style/wild style)

Tam Pha is a real rustical style using natural ingredients (aharn Pha in Thai means rustical or plucked from the wild - wild game is also Aharn Pha; such as cooked hare, wild bird or wild chicken, squirrel, wild boar meat etc) The one above has "Hnor Mai bai ya nang" in it (bamboo marinated in Bai Ya Nang leaf juice). This is a pretty earthy, gamy tasting kind of som tam and for hardcore style only. Not for the delicate palate. I love bai ya nang anyway with hnor mai, which can be eaten as a soup and with sticky rice
Below pic; Som Tam Phu Suk
Here are some more variations of som tam for you to relish visually
Som Tam Mua (Tam Mua)

Som Tam Pla Ra

Som TamPhu kem (this is visibly a good one! no holding back on the ingredients here! )
Som Tam Thai Pla Ra
Som Tam Thai Phu Ma

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