Thai Coconut Soup (Tom kha kai)

This recipe for Thai Coconut Milk Soup really hit the spot when I was craving my favorite soup from Cafe Equator.


3 cups homemade chicken stock (or fish stock)
3-4 stalks of lemongrass (the lower white parts only- about 6 inches long)
Large piece of galangal (Thai ginger), sliced into about 12 rounds
4-6 kaffir lime leaves, handtorn in half
1 organic garlic clove, peeled, smashed
3 cups organic coconut milk- full fat
2-3 Thai chilies or 2 tsp chopped red chilies or red pepper flakes
2-4 TBL (plus) fish sauce (I use Thai Kitchen)
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 TBL (plus) red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
12 oz uncooked pastured chicken, cut into cubes (see notes below for using already cooked)
I also added a pound of shrimp because we like extra protein.
4-6oz of mixed organic mushrooms, chopped
Juice of 2 organic limes
4 TBL organic cilantro (fresh, leaves plucked from stems)


Bruise lemongrass, galangal and garlic clove by striking with the flat side of a large knife, a meat tenderizer or mallet. You want the juices to release into the stock.

In a medium stockpot, bring chicken stock, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and garlic clove to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add in coconut milk, chilies, fish sauce (start with 2 TBL and work up- saltiness varies by brands), coconut sugar or sucanat, and red curry paste (can adjust to taste). Simmer 10 minutes more.

The recipe says to pour soup through a strainer and into a large bowl to remove the large pieces of herbs and then put back in the pot, but I skipped this step and just told Chad not to pick around the herbs. :o) Add in chicken, shrimp, and mushrooms and cook about 8-10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Fish sauce is salty, lime juice is sour, chilies are heat and sugar is sweetness. It should be nicely balanced.

NOTES from

I’ve used leftover roasted chicken, cubed or shredded and it works great. No need to cook for as long at the end – maybe just 5 minutes.

While many of these ingredients seem exotic, most can be easily picked up at a well-stocked supermarket, like Whole Foods. Make sure to read ingredients carefully on items like fish sauce and curry paste. You are looking for pure ingredients with no chemical additives, veggie oils, GMOs or any other nasties.

Galangal is one of the more challenging ingredients to find. While ginger is a poor substitute for the earthiness of galangal, I’ve made it with ginger before and it was still a very tasty soup. (It’s just not Tom Kha) Just roughly peel a large piece of ginger root (you just want to expose the flesh- it doesn’t have to be perfect) and then smash it a few times as described in step one. Add it when you would add the galangal.

If you prefer to use something other than chicken, go for it. Tom Kha Goong is the same soup but with prawns (shrimp) in place of the chicken. Tom Kha Hed is with additional mushrooms instead of the chicken. Feel free to use mixed seafood- calamari, fish, shrimp- yum! Just add your seafood closer to the end.