Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tom Kha (Thai Soup With Coconut Milk)

A delicious soup bursting with citrus flavors to chase away wintertime blahs and blues, it is one of our favorites. It is adapted from various recipes of Tom Kha, which apparently means "boiled galangal". Fresh lime juice is an absolute must but if it is unavailable, use lemon juice and more of it. And the important thing to remember about lime juice is that it should be stirred in just before serving so as not to lose its piquancy and fresh flavor. Served with a spoonful or two of brown rice, it makes a wonderful light meal.

The quick broth is exactly that - very fast, easy and worth making as it adds to the complex flavor.

Makes about 1 quart: 2 Servings


1 stalk Lemongrass
4 slices fresh Ginger
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 Scallions, white part only, chopped
6-8 slices Galangal
4-5 Thai Bird's eye Chilies
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2-3 Lime leaves (Kaffir Lime if possible), torn
1/2 tsp sugar
1 can regular strength coconut milk
6 oz Tofu
1 Carrot
1 cup Napa or regular Cabbage
A handful of bean sprouts
4 Green Onions
6 Fresh white Mushrooms, thickly sliced
Sprigs of fresh Coriander/Cilantro for garnish
2 Tbsp fresh Lime Juice
2 Tbsp Coconut Cream (optional)
Cooked Brown or white rice, to serve (optional)
Thai Chili Sauce to serve (optional)
Vinegar Chili to serve (optional) See below


Crush the lemongrass a little by pounding on it with a rolling pin, a mallet, or the flat part of a knife and chop coarsely.

Make the broth: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Turn down the heat and add the lemongrass, peppercorns, scallions, a couple of the chilies, and ginger with a pinch of salt and simmer gently for 10 minutes; let steep while you prepare the other ingredients for the soup.

Cut the chilies lengthwise into two so you can easily fish them out before serving the soup; accidentally chewing on one of the chilies might not be a pleasant surprise for most.

Cut the tofu into large cubes, cabbage into large pieces, slice the carrots thinly on the diagonal, and the mushrooms into thick slices.

Decant the lemongrass scented broth into a bowl and discard the solid stuff.

Bring the lemongrass broth to a simmer with the salt, sugar, galangal and chilies. Crush the lime leaves in your hands to bruise them and add to the soup.

Add the tofu and gently simmer for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Stir in the carrots and cabbage and heat until very hot, almost to a boil - about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and fish out the chilies and discard; you might like to fish out the galangal and the lime leaves also.

Add the mushrooms, bean sprouts, green onions, and lime juice to taste. Stir in the coconut cream to enrich.

Serve hot immediately in warmed bowls garnished with cilantro.

Serve the Chili sauce and vinegar chilies in small bowls at the table so that each diner can add them to their soup if they wish. Enjoy!!

Vinegar Chili

Vinegar marinated chili is best eaten freshly made within a few hours after it is made; so only make as much as you think you are going to use.

6 Serrano or Thai chilies, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 tsp Soy Sauce

Combine the chilies with soy and vinegar and allow to marinate for about 15 minutes or up to a few hours. Serve at room temperature.

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