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Tom Kha Gai Soup – Thai Chicken Soup Recipe

Looking for a creamy coconut Thai recipe? Look no further than this Tom Kha Gai! 

Tom kha gai is a popular and mildly spiced coconut broth but it is the use of galangal that it gets its name. This famous Thai tom kha gai is on almost every Thai restaurant menu and for good reason… It tastes amazing.

I would like to take a minute to explain what tom kha gai means so that you can better understand what you are ordering at Thai restaurants and what you’re making at home. I do hope you decide to make this tom kha soup at home.

It is just as good if not better than the tom kha gai soups I have eaten out.

tom Kha Gai soup

So tasty! This tom kha gai is perfect as a starter or even a main course.

The meaning of Tom Kha Gai…

As I explained in my recipe for tom yum gai which you can read here,  ‘tom’ means to boil in Thai.

So ‘tom’ soups refer to the fact that the ingredients are boiled and then simmered with aromatic ingredients to get that fantastic flavour.

‘Kha’ means ‘galangal’ in Thai which is a lot like ginger. Galangal and ginger really shouldn’t be substituted for each other though as they do taste different. They both have their own distinctive flavours.

Now this could get confusing for some as galangal is used in so many Thai recipes that don’t have kha in their name. I think it is because you really taste the galangal in this soup as it is creamy and nowhere near as intense as the hot and spicy tom yum gai.

I also explain the name of that soup in my recipe here. 

‘Gai’ means chicken. So a Tom kha gai soup, known for its creamy coconut is actually referred to as a boiled aromatic soup that contains galangal and chicken.

Do you have to use chicken in a tom kha gai soup?

There are other variations to tom kha soup. A tom kha goong for example would be made with prawns and the liquid would be water or prawn stock.

A tofu tom kha is a much loved vegetarian version with tofu and vegetable, mushroom or water used to make the stock.

Use whatever proteins or veggies you like in this tom kha gai broth. If it sounds good, do it. 

Making it perfect…

As with all Thai dishes it is a good idea to taste as you go so that you get the right combination of spicy, savoury, sweet and salty for your personal preferences.

The tom kha soup recipe below is my combo but you can and should adjust the ingredients to your own preferences.

The following step by step tom kha gai photos should help you get the recipe just right!

Thai tom ka gai soup

Simmer the aromatic ingredients in the stock and then add the chicken pieces.

Thai tom ka gai soup

Add the coconut milk. Be sure to use extra creamy coconut milk.

Thai tom ka gai soup

Add the mushrooms and Thai roasted chilly paste.

Thai tom ka gai soup

Add the fish sauce. Do this one tablespoon at a time, tasting along the way.

Thai tom ka gai soup

Stir in the coriander (cilantro) and spring onions (scallions).

Thai tom ka gai soup

To finsish, add lime juice to taste. I use about 70ml (1/4 cup)

Love Thai food? Try some of these delicious recipes!

Thai Red Curry
Thai green curry
Beef Massaman Curry
Chicken Satay and peanut sauce
Thai Drunken Noodles
Steamed Sea Bass with Garlic and Lime Sauce
Tom Yum Gai
Hot and Sour Prawn Soup

I really hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family and I do. I’ve tried it at restaurants all over California, the UK and Thailand.

Tom kha gai soups in each location are quite similar but you are in control when you make your own.

Remember this when you are cooking it. Get the flavours just right for you and your tom kha gai soup will be the best there is!

Tom Kha Gai ready to serve

Tom Kha Gai

Dig in!

Yield: 4 - 6

How To Make Thai Tom Kha Gai Soup

Thai tom ka gai soup

Tom kha guy is a delicious Thai soup made with coconut milk galangal and chillies. This is so worth trying!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 250g (8 oz) chicken breast – cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (white part only with thick outer layer removed) bruised and cut into about six slices
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves – stems removed - thinly sliced
  • 1 thumb sized piece of galangal – sliced into 7 pieces and bruised
  • 10 coriander (cilantro) stems - finely chopped
  • 500ml water or Thai chicken stock
  • 400ml (1 ½ cups) tinned thick coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp palm sugar
  • 8 mushrooms - quartered or just cut in half
  • 70ml (1/4 cup) Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp chilli oil with some of the goop at the bottom
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) lime juice
  • 3 spring onions – roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat the stock over high heat in a large pan. When bubbly hot, add the stock/water and the lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and coriander (cilantro) stems. Let this simmer for about ten minutes to allow to aromatic ingredients to flavour the stock.
  2. Add the chicken and simmer for about five minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk and sugar to taste. Be sure to taste as you go.
  4. Now add the mushrooms, Thai fish sauce and the Thai chilli oil along with some of the goop at the bottom. This usually comprises of chilli flakes and perhaps garlic or shallots. You could also just add Thai red curry paste if that is more convenient. Do that to taste.
  5. Add the lime juice to taste and the spring onions. Simmer for another minute or so and enjoy.

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I hope you enjoy and have fun with this tom kha soup recipe. If you do give it a try, please don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear from you. 

John

Saturday 14th of August 2021

I intend to attempt this recipe Dan, my only concern is the ‘Thai stock’ I have your Thai book and in it you have a recipe for this stock which includes “meaty chicken bones”…would these be raw? Or can I use cooked chicken carcasses I’ve saved and frozen from previous meals.? Thanks in advance. John.

Dan Toombs

Sunday 15th of August 2021

You can use any chicken stock at all. So if you have carcasses in the freezer there is no reason you can't use those to make a stock as long as they have been stored and handles correctly. Thanks Dan

Mary Clayville

Thursday 6th of May 2021

This is great but too much fish sauce when you have to wear a mask!

Dan Toombs

Friday 7th of May 2021

Yes, the taste or smell isn't for everyone. Put it in to your own taste as I always state. Thanks Dan

Ron Bannerman

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

I found your recipe Tom Kha Soup , looks good just a couple of questions .

You have in the recipe chilli oil , then on pg 4 , you say to add Thai roasted chilly paste , and at the end , pg 8 you offer Thai red curry paste Could please clarify this for me . Or are you using the roasted chilly paste , same as Thai red curry paste , I find the roasted is stronger than the red curry paste . lastly typically what ingredients would you not eat or take out prior to serving ? ie: lemongrass stocks , Coriander stocks , galangal pcs , Kaffir Leaves Thank - you

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

You can use chilli oil if you have it available but if not Thai red curry paste works too. If you have roasted Thai curry paste and you like it and it is not too strong I am sure that would be fine. Any of those will work but maybe add to taste if you are worried about it being too strong as they all differ brand to brand. I don't take out any of the ingredients but if you feel you need to that would be fine as most of the flavours will have already been imparted. Thanks Dan

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