Monday, February 28, 2011

Thai coconut soup (tom kha gai): a recipe

Thai coconut soup (tom kha gai)
When I enjoy a really good dish at a restaurant, I'm always tempted to try to recreate it at home. With the exception of the buffalo chicken pizza that I copied from the Carolina Brewery in my former hometown of Chapel Hill, my home version usually just isn't quite the same.

That's not to say that my home version is bad, either -- just different.

Case in point, this Thai coconut soup.

I first had this soup at the Tiny Thai restaurant in my soon-to-be new hometown of Essex, Vermont. It's fantastic -- a flavorful, milky broth with just a hint of tangy lime.

So I searched the internet for some recipes -- and found that most of the necessary ingredients are not readily available to me. Dag.

Back to the drawing board.

Enter the trusty recipe book supplied a number of years ago by the first CSA I joined. Lo and behold, it contains a recipe for tom kha gai!

Now, I will tell you that this version of the soup has a totally different texture and feeling than the Tiny Thai version that I love: much heartier, especially with the added greens. And, in its current form, it lacks the limey tang, which comes from the addition of kaffir lime leaves. (Yeah, whatever.)

Next time, I am going to add a little lime zest and fresh lime juice and I think it might be perfect.

Why don't you try it and let me know what you think? Better yet, come for a visit and we can hit the Tiny Thai for lunch.

Thai Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai) (origin of this recipe is unknown)

3 teaspoons peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated ginger root
1/4 cup chopped lemongrass
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups shredded daikon radish
large handful of greens (spinach, arugula, bok choy, etc.)
4 cups water
10-oz. can lite coconut milk
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, Tabasco, coriander and cumin and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken, mushrooms and onion and cook about 5 minutes. Add the radish and greens, cooking until tender (about 2 minutes). Finally, add the water, coconut milk, fish sauce and cilantro and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the flavors are well blended (about 25 minutes). Add salt to taste.

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