This Thai soup is my FAVOURITE thing to order from our local Thai takeaway. A spicy soup, made with coconut milk, galangal (more on this later), lemongrass, shiitake mushrooms, chillies and chicken. I'm not kidding, it will blow your mind!
It makes a fantastic lunch or starter, or you can serve it with a bowl of boiled rice for dinner. Take a spoonful of rice and dunk it in the soup. Bliss!
There's a fantastic Thai restaurant up the road from me - which is where I was introduced to Tom Kha Gai.
I wasn't hugely hungry, so I just ordered some soup. One that I hadn't tried before.
First taste and I was totally hooked. Now I order it every time!
I decided to figure out how to make it at home. But just for those days when I'm in a soup-making mood. I still love my local takeaway 😍
It's a spicy Thai coconut soup with galangal and chicken.
Tom = soup, Kah = galangal, Gai = chicken
Tom Kha is a creamy-spicy soup, made with coconut milk, whereas Tom Yum is a non-creamy, hot and sour soup, often containing prawns (shrimp).
📋 What do we need?
- Galangal - this single most important ingredient in this recipe. You can use fresh, but I use galangal paste for simplity.
- Chicken - Use cooked, shredded chicken thighs to make this soup extra speedy.
- Coconut milk - Use full fat, NOT half-fat. Full-fat = creamier and won't split when heated in the pan.
- Mushrooms - I'm using shiitake, but you can use your favourite mushrooms
- Lemongrass - you can use lemongrass paste, but I think fresh, sliced lemongrass makes a big difference to this dish
- Red Thai Curry Paste - to give it that lovely flavour and colour
📺 Watch how to make it
Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.
👩🍳PRO TIP Some people like to scoop out the lemongrass, but the light citrus tang and crunch of it in this soup works perfectly!
I love to finish with a few drops of chilli oil and a sprinkling of coriander (cilantro).
🍽️ What is galangal?
- Although it looks similar to ginger, and is from the same family, galangal is less spicy and more citrus-tasting than ginger.
- Ginger has darker skin and softer flesh.
- You can't swap it out for ginger - especially in this soup. The 'Kha' in 'Tom Kha Gai' literally means galangal.
- Galangal is a lot tougher than ginger, which makes it difficult to slice, Be very careful if slicing!
- I prefer to use galangal paste, as I'm a bit clumsy.
🍲 More Thai-inspired recipes
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Tom Kha Soup
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 onion - peeled and finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic - peeled and minced
- 2 tsp galangal paste - or a 2cm piece of galangal, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 lemon grass stalk - tough outer leaves removed and inner stalk sliced finely (or 1 tsp lemongrass paste)
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 red chillies - sliced (I use milder fresno chillies, but you can replace with Thai chillies if you like it spicier)
- 10 shiitake mushrooms - sliced in half
- 1 tbsp red Thai curry paste
- 1 litre good quality chicken stock
- 400 ml 14oz can of coconut milk
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- Juice of 1 lime - about 2 tbsp
- 6 cooked chicken thigh fillets - shredded
Optional - it you want to thicken the soup slightly:
- 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch), mixed with 3 tbsp cold water, to form a paste/slurry
- Small bunch fresh coriander - roughly torn
- 2 tsp chilli oil for drizzling
- 1 lime - sliced
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until softened.
- Add the garlic, galangal paste, lemongrass, lime leaves, chillies, mushrooms and Thai curry paste. Cook for one minute, stirring often.
- Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and shredded chicken.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the chicken is fully heated through. If you would like to thicken the soup at all, slowly pour in the cornflour/water slurry, whilst stirring.
- Taste the soup and season with a little salt and pepper if needed.
- Divide between bowls, then top with fresh coriander and drizzle with a little chilli oil. Top with slices of lime before serving.
Swap the chicken stock for good quality vegetable stock.
I would also add some extra mushrooms. Can I make it ahead? Yes, you can make the soup, then cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a pan, over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until piping hot. Nutritional information is per serving, based on this recipe serving 6 people.
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