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How to Make Tom Kha Gai. Thailand's Classic Chicken Soup Recipe

Updated on July 30, 2009

A Photo Guide to Ingredients

Oyster Mushroom
Oyster Mushroom
Straw Mushrooms
Straw Mushrooms
kaffir Lime Leaves
kaffir Lime Leaves

One of Thailand’s classic soups, everyone likes this easy to make coconut milk enriched chicken soup.

This is mildly sour and spicy, but not to the degree of the much more aggressive Thai soup, Tom Yam Kung! Most people will find the amount of spice in this recipe easily manageable, but if you’re concerned about it, you can use less chili than is called for.

Tom Kha Gai (Enough for about 4 people, as a part of a Thai style dinner)

  • ¾ pounds of chicken, any type of chicken will work here, whatever you have, cut into bit sized chunks
  • 5 or 6 medium sized oyster mushrooms cut into pieces (substitute straw mushrooms or plain white mushrooms, if desired)
  • 3 or 4 Thai bird chilies cut on the diagonal
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass cut into 2 inch segments
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
  • 1 and a ½ inches of galangal root, cut into thin slices
  • A few sprigs of cilantro, sliced, to be used as garnish
  • 2 - 3 Tbls of fish sauce
  • 3 Tbls of lime juice
  • 2 tsps of salt
  • 1 Tbls of sugar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup of coconut milk (or more as desired, for a creamier soup)
  1. Add the water to a saucepan and toss in the chicken, the lemon grass the lime leaves, the chilies, the galangal and the mushrooms and bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer (avoid a vigorous boil here, as it could make the soup taste kind of greasy.)
  2. Simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through, 3 or 4 minutes, probably, depending on the size of your chicken pieces.
  3. Add in the coconut milk, 2 Tbls of fish sauce, the lime juice, salt and sugar and turn off the heat. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt, fish sauce. Lime juice or sugar as needed.
  4. Sprinkle cut cilantro leaves over top of bowls before serving

I consider this recipe to be a rich enough for my liking version of this classic dish and is what I commonly see presented here in Thailand. When I order Tom Kha Gai in the west, it often seems creamier, using a higher proportion of coconut milk to water. If after tasting your soup, you feel that is too thin, this is easily remedied through the addition of another ½ cup or so of coconut milk.

This soup is mild-to medium spicy. If you do not care for chili spice, reduce the chili used, or omit it entirely, the soup will still be quite tasty.


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    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Judydianne, Galangal root looks a lot like a ginger root, but h as a different taste. I am sure that anyone at a local Asian grocery could point you in the right direction!

      Dohn121 - we definitely use tamarind around here in soups. I particularly like it in a Tom Yam Kha Moo (spicy pork leg soup)