I've been wanting to do this post for awhile because it's one of my favorite go-to soups. As far as soups go, it doesn’t get much easier to go gluten-free than Tom Kha Gai. If you haven’t tried it before, take a classic chicken noodle, add some Asian flair and a hint of lime and you’ve got Thai Coconut Chicken Soup. Trust me, it’ll be your new favorite in no time.
Here’s what you’ll need:
For the base –
8 cups worth of chicken broth powder (but only 6 cups of water)
2 13.5 cans of coconut milk
5” piece of ginger peeled (think half of a hot dog)
To add later –
1 Baby Bok Choy
6 Chicken tenders OR 3 chicken breasts
1 Can of oyster mushrooms
1 Tbsp. sugar
Coat your chicken in a layer of meat tenderizer. Pour some olive oil into a skillet and cook your chicken until done. I recently learned that the easiest way to cook chicken is to let it cook on one side until you can see the line of white (cooked meat) rise to the point that there’s only a thin amount of pink left, then flip the chicken and cook for about a minute until when you cut into it it’s no longer pink. This way makes it easier to tell when the chicken’s done so you avoid that dreaded dry chicken taste or having to cut the chicken open a bazillion times until it’s mutilated (guilty).
In a large stock pot, combine the chicken broth powder and water, then bring to a boil. If you haven’t used it before, chicken broth powder is way more cost effective and easier to store. The advantage of adding more powder than usual is stronger flavor without having to wait for the soup to boil down. Essentially a time saver that adds a bunch of flavor.
Next, stir in the coconut milk. If you’re struggling to find it, it tends to be in the baking aisle. If you can't find it there, you can always get a carton of it in the lactose-free section next to the milk. Be careful when opening the cans though. The milk tends to separate into coconut oil and a syrupy liquid. Flip it over and open it from the bottom, then flip it right side up, pointing away from you and into the pot. This way you might just save that gorgeous shirt you’re wearing.
Peel your piece of ginger and chop it up finely (think grains of sea salt size). The tinier you chop it, the less likely you are to get a big spicy bite when you’re eating. Of course, if that’s what you’re into, go for it!
Add the chopped ginger to your pot, put the lid on and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Then turn the heat down to medium low and let the broth simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. My mom got me these great lids (the green thing you see above) that prevent pots from boiling over. They're great for soups, pasta, anything really. Any boiling liquid just bubbles up through the vents instead of onto your stove.
Once the chicken is done, remove it from the heat and let it rest for a minute. We want to keep as much of the juices inside as possible.
Then, dice it up, but don't add it to the soup yet. More traditional recipes tell you to thinly slice the raw chicken, put it in your serving bowl, then pour the piping hot broth over it to cook it. If you’re adventurous enough, go for it! It makes me way too nervous though.
Next, take your baby Bok Choy and wash it upside down and beat it lightly on the side of your sink. The way the leaves are, it’s easy for dirt to get stuck between the leaves and when you wash it leafy-side up, the dirt just gets packed in between the crevices between the leaves.
Then, roughly chop it into ¼” thick medallions. If you didn’t wash it well enough, you’ll see black grainy soil between the leaves. If this happens, put it in a strainer and give it another good rinse, breaking the leaf sections apart like you would an onion.
Add the medallions and separated leaves to the simmering broth.
While that's cooking, dice your tomatoes and add them to the pot.
Next, I like to pour any liquid that's left over from cooking the chicken into the pot. This isn't a traditional part of the recipe, but I think it gives it more flavor.
Only add the mushrooms and chicken in the last minutes of cooking. We don't want the chicken to get dry and the mushrooms are pretty fragile. The first time I cooked this soup I added them too soon and they turned to mush. Add all the liquid from the can to the soup as well, no need to drain. If you’re struggling to find the mushrooms they should be right next to the other cans of mushrooms; however, some grocery stores organize them in with the Asian food section.
At the very end, finely chop the cilantro and throw it into the pot.
Then add the sugar and the juice of one of the limes. At this point, taste test and see if you like the flavor this way or it you would prefer more lime. At that point add either half or the whole second lime.
Give it a good stir and you’re ready to go! This soup tends to serve 6 and keeps well for left overs (personally, I think the flavors get even better after a day in the fridge). Warning: it will look funky in the morning when the coconut milk re-solidifies, but all will go back to normal with a good microwave.
Plate and serve.