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Tom Kha Gai

This is one soup that benefits from less cooking time, and can be easily thrown together for a weeknight meal. For a heartier dish, add cooked rice noodles to the broth. Shrimp is a delicious alternative to chicken in this soup. The lime leaves, galangal, and lemon grass stalks are typically left in the soup for serving, but are not meant to be eaten.


1. If using fresh lemon grass, finely mince the lower portion of the stalk, and chop the upper portion into 1-inch chunks.

2. In a large (5 quart) pot bring chicken broth to a boil. Add chicken breast, onion, mushrooms, lemongrass, chilies or hot sauce, and lime leaves. If substituting lemon and/or lime zest, do not add yet . Reduce heat and let simmer 5 – 7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

3. To peel and seed the tomatoes: use a small paring knife to core the stem from the tomatoes, and then cut an X in the skin on the opposite end of the tomatoes. Add to broth and let simmer 1 minute. Remove from broth and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove skin– it should pull away easily. Cut in half and with your fingertips, remove and discard seeds. Dice the tomato flesh into 1/4 inch cubes, and add to soup.

4. Reduce heat to medium. Add galangal or ginger coins, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, and brown sugar to soup. If substituting lemon and/or lime zest, add now. Stir to combine until soup is heated through* (see note). Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, or chilies as needed to reach the perfect salty/sour/sweet/spicy balance. Add cooked rice noodles if using. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro and green onion, and serve.

Serves 4 – 6

*Do not boil the soup once coconut milk is added. A low, brief simmer is fine, but boiling can separate the coconut milk, similar to heavy cream.

** Fish sauce is commonly available in the Asian section of most grocery stores, but if you need to substitute use 1 tablespoon anchovy paste and 2 – 3 tablespoons soy sauce.