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Tom Kha Gai copyright

Tom Kha Gai is a highly popular Thai soup known for its intense and aromatic flavors and its rich and creamy coconut-infused broth.   Tom Kha Gai translates as “boiled galangal chicken.”  Galangal looks similar to ginger and is related to it, but has a more peppery and pungent flavor.  Use galangal for this recipe if you can find it (available at most well-stocked Asian markets) or substitute with ginger.

This is a quick and easy soup to make, but there is nothing simple about the deliciously complex flavors.  Aroi Mak Mak!  (That’s Thai for “Deeeeelicious!”)

Thai people love their food (and so do we!) and food is a central part of their culture.  I have heard it said that Thai people don’t exchange “how are you?” as the common greeting.  Rather, they ask “gin khao reu yung?, which means “have you eaten yet?”  Now that’s my kind of greeting!  Scratch the small talk and let’s get down to FOOD!

I wanted to create a version of this soup that was bursting with flavor, deliciously aromatic, and visually beautiful.  Goal achieved!  I’m confident you will agree.

*Note:  For seafood version (Tom Kha Thale) and vegetarian-friendly, substitute shrimp for the chicken, vegetable broth for chicken broth, and follow the same preparation instructions.


  • 1 /2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (can find in Asian markets)
  • 3 cups strong chicken stock
  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 large lemongrass stalk, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 thin slices fresh galangal or ginger
  • 2-3 Thai chilies, seeded cut in thin slices (use less if you prefer it less spicy)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, preferably Thai basil if you have it, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro or basil leaves for garnishing


Warm the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the curry paste, stirring until fragrant.  Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, chilies, lime juice, and fish sauce and bring it to a simmer, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken strips and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and simmer for another  5 minutes.  Add salt to taste if needed.  Remove the lemongrass and ginger and serve immediately, garnished with fresh basil leaves or cilantro.

Serves 4