Friday, May 31, 2013

Tom Kha, Base Soup Recipe

I never used to consider myself a big fan of soup. And if I went out to an Asian restaurant, there was just no way I would have ever sacrificed my delicious stir-fried medley of vegetables, meat, and rice for some silly glop of soup!

Until one day....

My friend wanted to drive out for lunch at a Thai Restaurant nearby. I wasn't feeling that well, so solid food didn't exactly sound great, but I acquiesced anyway. Longer-than-you-care-to-read story short, I ended up ordering some soup. Little did I realize I was about to meet the love of my food life; Tom Kha!

Tom Kha Recipe

Naturally I had to learn to make this myself. I've heard that the full name is Tom Kha Gai, "Gai" meaning chicken. Since I don't like chicken, I have not included that in my recipe, and thus am just leaving it at Tom Kha. Although I do use chicken broth...

Whatever you call it, there's really no need to follow any recipe for this soup too specifically; the coconut milk, kaffir, and galangal are the really important ingredients. Then you have the more Thai traditional ingredients such as mushrooms and chicken, but I left those out and replaced them with a few of my favourite veggies instead. Just cook what you like!

Nonetheless, here is my own recipe. This personally provided 5 servings to my household:

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 serrancho pepper
  • 4 oz. can of bamboo shoots
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves (pronounced like 'cat fur', but without the 't':  ca-fur)
  • 11 galangal root pieces (pronounced like 'gal', the word for a female:  gal-in-gal)
  • 3 stalks of lemon grass (pronounced like... just kidding)
  • 2-3 scallions
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 13.66 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 small lime's worth of juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 40 cloves
  • 2 cups of dried rice

Rice Instructions:

I cooked two cups of dried white jasmine rice in my rice cooker, as normal. However, I also added 40 cloves and the juice from 1 half of the lime. I just love infusing otherwise bland rice with exciting flavours, and the cloves go so well with this soup. Just be sure to pick them out before serving.

Soup Instructions:

1. Chop up everything beforehand, if you like.


Lemongrass - crush with the flat of your blade to release the flavour, but make it easy to remove after cooking.

Kaffir Leaves - either leave whole to remove after cooking, or tear up into tiny pieces for easy chewing. You can eat them, they are just sometimes difficult to bite through.

Galangal - Depending on how you buy this, it will be ready to toss in as is. You may leave them in the soup if you wish, but don't try to eat them; if you like, just suck on them a bit and spit them back out (classy and delicious!).

2. Place the chicken broth, garlic, carrots, serrancho pepper, and black pepper into a large pot. Bring to a boil.

3. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add the bamboo, kaffir leaves, galangal, and lemongrass, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Time for the delicious coconut milk! Add the whole can in, plus the lime juice from the other half of your lime, scallions, brown sugar, and fish sauce.

Let simmer for another 10 minutes.

5. It's ready! Serve over the rice, or just eat by itself.

A Couple Things...

First of all, as I said in the title of this post, this is a great base for this soup with which you can build your own creation upon. I would have preferred it to have more of a bite, but my boyfriend doesn't like very spicy food, so I catered this more to his tastes.


My mother went and tried it two days later, and said it had become deliciously spicy. Unfortunately, I wasn't there and can't say personally how much it changed, but do consider letting your soup marinate itself for a while before serving. Then just gently reheat back on the stove top.

Next, some of these ingredients may be hard to find. Luckily for me, my local health food store carries the Thai Kitchen brand, which provides Kaffir Lime Leaves, Fish Sauce, and Galangal Root! (I also bought their coconut milk, which for some reason comes in a randomnly sized 13.66 can)

Now my recipe is still very white, whereas the restaurant's was very orange. I will play with a few more ingredients over time and see what I like that adds colour; the first thing I'll try will be some Thai Chili Paste, also made by Thai Kitchen!

Lastly, my Thai restaurant served this soup in a huge flaming metal bowl that kept it warm. I can't really describe it well.... but if it were a stronghold, the flames would have been the castle and the soup would be the moat around the structure. Then you just ladled the soup out of there and into your bowl. It was really very exciting, but sadly I have nothing like that at home. This doesn't really apply to the recipe, I just thought it was something everyone should know.

Until next time!


  1. Sounds amazing Ashley - wish you lived closer!!
    Your instructions are really clear - might have to try it sometime...!
    The flaming metal bowl sounds an exciting experience!
    Ali x

    1. I'm determined to get one of my own bowls like that. I guess it's called a tureen... but I have yet to find one that I can buy. Maybe the restaurant will give it to me if I ask really nicely. ;)