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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


  1. If you notice the dried roasted chillies in the seafood version, this is common in restaurants when served in a steamboat. Tom Kha ia similar to Tom Yam Kung, which has these chillies in it, and in the finer restaurants it is added to give a deftier, tomyam kiind of flavour, which leaves a reddich orange oil floating on the surface of the soup, as is the case in Tom yam Kung, which in that case is a mixture of the roasted dry chilli oil and also "Man Kung" (shrimp oil), which can be bought in small plastic containers and added to the soup.

  2. oh wow great soup let me know if you ever want to do a guest post on a Thai dish for chow and chatter

    rebeccasubbiah at yahoo dot com Rebecca

  3. Yes i would love to sometime.. I will send you a mail. I know i don't post often here but its just that one post takes me so long with all the research i do on the recipes plus translation from Thai that it is rather longwinded to make a post. I shall be in contact soon.Thanks for the offer


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