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Thai Recipes > Soups > Tom Kha 24 February 2006

Posted by cath in freeze-friendly, mildly spicy, Recipes, Thai food, thai soups, variations.

Mildly SpicyTom Kha Gaifreeze-friendly
(Coconut and Galangal Soup with Chicken)

Serves 4 as a lunch with steamed rice, or as a dish in a main meal

400g (approx.) Chicken (skinned and boned) – cut into long, thin strips across the grain
Coconut milk – up to 2 tins (depends on how rich or fluid you like your soup)
Chicken or Vegetable Stock – approx. 250mls (half a pint)
3 stalks Lemongrass – lower third only, cut into 1-inch pieces
Galangal (Ginza, Pink Ginger) – peeled, at least 6 slices, approx. 5mm thick
Chillies – green or red, any size, any number (large slices or whole for a mild flavour, finely chopped for more heat)
Mushrooms – cut into segments/slices (oyster mushrooms
3 Snake Beans or a handful of long beans – cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves Garlic – crushed (optional)
1 Spring onion – sliced into diagonal chunks
5 Kaffir lime leaves – remove the stalk and tear roughly
Thai sweet basil – handful of leaves, roughly torn (optional)
Coriander – 1 small bunch, finely chop the root and stalk, roughly chop the leaves
Juice of 1 lime (to taste)
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce


  1. Shake the tins of coconut milk to mix, add 1 tin to the stock and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the mushrooms, ginza and lemongrass and simmer gently for a few minutes.
  3. Add the chillies, garlic (if using) and spring onion to the broth, this part of the broth can be simmered gently for a few minutes or as long as needed, add more coconut milk and/or stock or water to the broth to achieve the desired fluidity.
  4. Add the chicken, cook for 5 minutes on a fairly high heat, stirring as required until the chicken has turned white.
  5. Add the kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce; simmer gently for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
  6. Add the chopped coriander stalk and root, bring back to a high boil to combine. Switch off the heat.
  7. Add the basil (if using) and coriander leaves and stir.
  8. Add lime juice to taste.
  9. Garnish with sliced large chillies, basil and coriander leaves.

Serve with fresh steamed thai fragrant rice and raw beansprouts.


The dish can be made for vegetarians: use vegetable stock and varieties of mushroom (i.e oyster and shitake), asparagus, baby corn or other seasonal vegetables in place of chicken stock. Use soy instead of fish sauce.
Add the main vegetables to the finished broth (at stage 5) and simmer gently, before adding herbs and garnishing once the vegetables are cooked.

This dish is traditionally served mildly spicy, but spicier versions work really well too.

Italian-Style Variation: Try Tom Kha Gai as a sauce for pasta (e.g. linguine or tagliatelle). You will need to cut back on the liquid (stock and/or coconut milk) and reduce the sauce down or thicken it with a small spoon of cornflour mixed with a dash of water to achieve a creamy consistency. Stir into the cooked pasta and serve with the garnish.
Particularly good served spicy!


1. Colin - 27 February 2006

Nice recipe. I love the way it’s laidout too – very clear! I shall pass this on to my fiancée to prepare for me while I’m busy sleeping.

2. cath - 28 February 2006

Thanks col, although I am going to alter it a little before adding more…
and watch out for my spicy soup (Tom Yum) up next :)

3. cath - 28 February 2006

Tip: For those who don't want to make a spicy version of Tom Kha, a good alternative is to use a few chillis in the broth and put some chilli oil on the table. Then your guests can add some extra heat to their dish, to taste!

4. Thai-Eyes - 23 September 2008

Hi, there are quite a few mistakes in Your recipe.
It is not an original Tom Kha Gai.
Never add garlic!
Never use Thai Basil leaves, Tom Kha Gai is flavoured with coriander leaves.
No string beans!
Here You get the original Thai recipe for Tom Kha Gai:

5. cath - 24 September 2008

Thanks for your comment Thai-Eyes!
Your recipe does indeed look very authentic. However, as you may have noticed from the rest of my writings on cooking – I am not very traditional in my approach to recipes – I think people should adapt recipes to their tastes and to the ingredients they have locally and in season.
This is why the original Tom Kha recipe I was taught has ended up being modified over the years, particularly based on the ingredients I can source easily in Scotland.
I actually love the addition of both garlic and thai basil as they are my favourite flavours of Thailand along with extra chillies as I prefer my Thai soups extra spicy (unlike the more authentic Tom Kha which can be a little bland). Similarly with the addition of beans, or other vegetables in season – I urge you to try it, it may not be what is served up in Thai restaurants round the world, but it certainly is very tasty :)

6. Thai-Eyes - 24 September 2008

Hi Cath,
please do not understand me wrong,
but if somebody call a recipe Tom Kha Gai,
than I expect the original recipe.
For sure, recipes are no laws and
for sure anybody can modify recipes,
like she/he wants, but in that case,
somebody should call the recipe
maybe spicy coconut soup or something else,
because it´s not a Tom Kha Gai.
Greetings from Chiang Mai/Thailand

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