Tom Kha Gai

Recipe adapted from


  • 4-5 lbs bone in chicken thighs, remove skin
  • 1 lb mushrooms (I prefer oyster mushrooms)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1-5 little chilies
  • 2-inch piece of fresh galangal (don’t mistake it for turmeric root, which is more orange and will make the soup bitter, learned this the hard way)
  • 4-5 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 1-4 limes, to taste (be gradual with this – it varies a lot depending on how big the limes are and how much juice you get out of each)
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (but have more ready)
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1½ cups (12 fluid ounces) full-fat coconut milk

In Portland, all these ingredients can be found at Lily Market on 11001 NE Halsey St.


  1. Sear the chicken thighs so they are golden brown.
  2. Add to pot, fill with just enough water to cover them. Add a few splashes of fish sauce.
  3. Bring to a simmer. Set timer for 50 minutes.
  4. Cut lemongrass into 1 inch pieces. Bruise them with a mortar & pestle or a tenderizing hammer. However you can squish ’em. Add to pot.
  5. Slice galangal thinly crosswise. Add to pot.
  6. Cut center veins from kaffir lime leaves. Bruise and add to pot.
  7. Cut and add chilies. Wash your hands and from here on forth, don’t touch your face or anyone else’s for a while.
  8. Allow to simmer and make a delicious, lemony, chickeny broth until the timer goes off. Chop mushrooms into bite-size pieces while you wait.
  9. Drain the broth into another bowl. Transfer the chicken pieces into the broth, discarding the lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir leaves that’s left behind. This step is optional, as some people don’t mind having them in their soup. Transfer the broth and chicken back into the pot.
  10. Add mushrooms. You can add them before the timer goes off if you like your mushrooms softer, but I like them firm so I wait until this point in the process.
  11. Turn the heat down. You want it low enough to heat the soup, but not boiling because that will cause the coconut milk that you’re about to add to curdle. I turn off my burner, knowing that the residual heat on my electric burner is enough to keep the soup hot.
  12. Add coconut milk.
  13. Add lime juice and fish sauce to taste.
  14. Add cilantro leaves when serving.

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