tom kha gai soup (thai coconut soup)

Since we moved here five years ago and rediscovered Vietnamese, we have been neglecting Thai cuisine. Actually this isn’t the only reason. As much as I love Thai food, most it is cooked with a lot of sugar. Sugar is unhealthy for most people but especially for my body, which is an optimal 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 saltiness 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. Instead of white sugar you can add coconut sugar or raw cane sugar 
(While writing this post I found this recipe vegan fish sauce on The Kitchn.)

Z 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.


Alex with a Kaffir lime mustache


The only reason I welcome robots with open arms

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.


Thai coconut soup - Tom Kha Gai
  1. Serves 4 as a main course
  2. 7 small shallots or 1 medium onion
  3. 2½" piece galangal root or ginger or/and 2 stalks of lemongrass
  4. 1½" piece turmeric root or ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 1 cup crimini mushrooms
  6. 1 tablespoon coconut oil or canola oil
  7. 5 cups vegetable broth or water
  8. 3 cups water
  9. Small bunch cilantro
  10. Handful Thai basil or Italian
  11. 6 scallion stalks
  12. 12 kaffir leaves (6 Kaffir mustaches) or zest of 1 lime
  13. 2 tablespoons tamari or a vegan fish sauce
  14. Salt
  15. ½ tablespoon coconut sugar or any sugar of your choice
  16. 1 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk
  17. 1 lime
  18. Chili flakes
  19. Thai rice noodles
  1. 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. (I don't like the stems so I remove and discard them). Soak the basil, cilantro, scallion and kaffir lime leaves in cold water for a few minutes and drain. Put 1 sprig of cilantro and basil on the side for garnish.
  2. Put the coconut oil or canola oil in a medium soup pot on 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, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
  3. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes, then lower to a simmer. Add the tamari or fish sauce and coconut milk, and cook for another 5 - 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Only when the water is boiling, stir in the noodles. Cook until they are tender/al dente, about five minutes. Drain and rinse them under cold water. (If you live in California, or anywhere with a water shortage, prepare a bowl with cold water and add them in.)
  5. Put a handful of noodles (or as much as you like) into bowls, ladle the soup over, and garnish with chili flakes, basil, cilantro and a lime wedge on the side.
Shelly's Humble Kitchen


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