I love Thai food but I don’t like it when restaurants make it overly sweet. Sugar has a negative affect on the immune system. I feel weak when I eat it and my slender body immediately becomes an greenhouse for fungus.
Tom Kha Gai is a spicy coconut soup made with all kinds of aromatic Thai herbs and roots. It’s my favorite Thai dish. It’s aromatic, silky, rich, spicy, sour and mild sweet. Today on my way back home from a hike in Griffith Park, I stopped by Bangkok Market to buy ingredients to make this soup. I bought everything but forgot to buy the most crucial ingredient that gives this soup it’s umami flavor, fish sauce. In retrospect it wasn’t a bad thing after all because now the recipe is purely vegan. To compensate for the fish sauce flavor, I added tamari, extra herbs and galangal. (While writing this post I found this recipe vegan fish sauce on The Kitchn.)
My husband and the boys had their soup with free-range chicken breast.
Traditional Tom Kha Gai is made with chicken and shrimp, but for a vegan version you can add non-GMO tofu, rice noodles, and/or vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and green beans.
Another key ingredient I forgot to add to the soup is lemongrass but no one noticed. If it’s available, get it. It’s a magical herb that tastes like as if lime and ginger had a baby. With the rest of the lemongrass you didn’t use in your soup, you can make tea, or shave it into cakes and jams, or add it to soups or stews.
Simple Thai-Style Coconut Soup
- 7 small shallots or 1 medium onion
- 2½ in galangal root or ginger or/and 2 stalks of lemongrass
- 1½ in turmeric root or ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 cup crimini mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or avocado oil
- 5 cups vegetable broth or water
- 3 cups water
- Handful cilantro
- Handful Thai or Italian basil
- 6 scallions
- 12 kaffir leaves or zest of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- ½ tablespoon coconut sugar or any sugar of your choice
- 1 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk
- 1 lime
- Chili flakes
- Thai rice noodles
- Prepare the ingredients: peel the shallots or onion and chop roughly. Wash the galangal and turmeric and slice them (¼" or 1 cm). Wash the mushrooms and dry, chop the stems off. Soak the basil, cilantro, scallion and kaffir lime leaves in cold water for a few minutes and drain. Put aside a few leaves of cilantro and basil for garnish.
- Put the coconut oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots or onion and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, water, galangal, turmeric and herbs to the pot and raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
- Boil for 5 minutes, then lower to a simmer. Add the fish sauce and coconut milk, and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring into a boil. Stir in the noodles and cook them until they are al dente, about five minutes. Drain and rinse them under cold water.
- Put a handful of noodles into bowls, ladle the soup over, and garnish with chili flakes, basil or cilantro, and serve with wedges of lime on the side.