Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thai Chicken Soup Recipe

First, my appreciation to all the cilantro-hating readers who have allowed me to indulge myself for an entire month of cilantro worship and have kept reading my blog and barely complained about all the cilantro! I'm ending my month with this recipe for Thai Chicken Soup, similar to a soup that might be called Tom Ka Gai or Dom Yam Gai at your favorite Thai restaurant. (And if anyone like Ed or Pim knows the difference between those two types of soups, I'd love to know.)

This soup has cilantro added at the very end, but let me say if you're not a cilantro fan, make this soup anyway, and leave out the cilantro. There are so many great flavors going on here that you won't miss out at all. Just do not miss out on this soup!

The recipe I used was from Eat This Book, Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors, and though I never really watched Tyler Florence on the Food Network, I love this cookbook. The other recipe I've posted from it was Pan Roasted Chicken with Onions, Mushrooms, and Rosemary, and it was also a wow. Interestingly, when I looked in one of my other favorite cookbooks, The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman I found a recipe that was almost identical to this one.

One change I made in the recipe directions was to simmer the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, Thai chiles, and garlic in the chicken stock for a bit, and then remove them. I recommend that step, even if it makes the soup slightly less authentic, especially if you're cooking for someone who's not familiar with Thai food and won't know that those flavorings aren't meant to be eaten.

The two uniquely Thai flavorings here are lemongrass, also used in Vietnamese cuisine, and Kaffir Lime leaves. Lemongrass is a perennial herb, called Takrai in Thailand. Mostly the inner white part of the stalks is used for flavoring. It can be frozen, and is also sold dried or powdered. Where I live it's hard to find fresh, but when I was visiting St. Louis recently I found some sliced, bottled lemongrass that worked well for this recipe. Kaffir lime leaves are the leaves of a Southeast Asian citrus plant, and they are never eaten, but used to flavor broth as I've done here. I'm lucky enough to have a stepsister in California who sends me these from her tree. If you're not familiar with Thai ingredients yourself, this page about Thai ingredients might be helpful.

(If all these Thai ingredients are a bit intimidating to you, you might want to visit an Asian market and try some of the packets of seasoning used to make soup like this. Of course, they aren't as good as making the soup fresh, but if you choose a brand that's imported from Asia, often they're quite good.

Thai Chicken Soup Recipe
(4 main course servings, recipe only slightly adapted from Eat This Book, Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors by Tyler Florence)

1 quart chicken stock, homemade or canned
1 lemongrass stalk, white part, crushed slightly or 1 tsp. bottled sliced lemongrass
3 kaffir lime leaves
(I don't use them often, so I keep them in the freezer.)
several slices ginger root
2 small fresh Thai chiles, halved lengthwise
(I keep these in the freezer too.)
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 can (14.5 oz.) coconut milk
(I used Thai Kitchen brand light coconut milk)
1 T Thai fish sauce (recipe called for 2 T)
(Thai fish sauce is nam pla)
1 1/2 tsp. sugar or Splenda
1 can mushrooms (recipe called for straw mushrooms)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (4 cooked chicken breasts)
juice of 4 limes
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro to garnish if desired (or more)

In large soup pot, bring chicken stock to a simmer over medium heat. Add lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger slices, Thai chiles, and smashed garlic cloves. Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, then strain stock to remove these inedible flavorings.

Turn heat to low, then stir in coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar or Splenda, mushrooms, shredded chicken, lime juice, and cracked pepper. Simmer about 5 minutes without boiling to blend flavors and heat chicken through. Ladle soup into individual bowls and sprinkle with cilantro if desired.

South Beach Suggestions:
This soup is perfect for any phase of The South Beach Diet, especially if you used light coconut milk. If you wanted the soup as part of an Asian meal, it would pair well with Thai Barbecue Chicken with Cilantro or Chicken Lettuce Wraps by Rand. If you add rice for phase 2 or 3, use Uncle Ben's Converted Rice.

Of course, you're all smart enough to figure out that this is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Fiber of 28 Cooks this week.counter customizable free hit
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More to Chew On:


  1. Tyler seems like a pretty cool guy..have to go check his book out sometime

  2. WMM (Bill) As I said, both the things I've made from this book were fantastic, and I have about 10 more recipes marked to try!

    Christine, it was sooooo good. I love these fresh flavors together.

  3. Can you subsitute Tofu for the chicken? Since I don't do meat? I want to try this, it sounds very tasty!!

    Also, do you get your thai ingredients at the Asian Market on 9th south? It is a great place!

  4. Wow, the soup looks delicious Kalyn.

  5. I adore Eat This Book. Thanks for reminding me to pull it out! The soup looks fab.

  6. Maria, tofu would be good in this. I haven't been to the Asian store on 9th South. Have to check it out.

    Mandira, it was fantastic. I love coconut milk.

    Jennifer, isn't it a great book.

  7. Tom Kha and Tom Yum Goong both have Galangal, Lemongrass, and Kaffir Lime Leafs as the main aromatics. Tom Kha always contain coconut milk, while Tom Yum almost always do not -a few recipes from some regions do ask a bit of coconut milk, but never as the base for the broth like for Tom Kha. Gai means chicken, which is the most common meat in the Tom Kha soup, while Goong means shrimp, which is the most common protein for the Tom Yum soup.

    This recipe looks to me to be a bastardized version of Tom Kha Gai, replacing the more ubiquitous ginger for the harder to find Galangal. If you want to be 'authentic' then I suggest skipping Galangal entirely if you couldn't find it rather than using ginger -which to me taste nothing like galangal.

    But hey, the bottom line is if it tastes good to you then why not?


  8. Kalyn,

    Thanks for sropping by my blog earlier. What a surprise we both used lemongrass in this week WHB! :)

    Your soup looks really good... Will try out very soon. My personal favourite is to eat this type of soup with rice noodle!

  9. Hi Pim, Thanks for the info. I was sure you would know about this. I knew it had to be an Americanized version of the soup, but didn't realize that the flavor of galangal was so distinctive from ginger. Doubt I could ever find fresh galangal in Salt Lake. I do have to say that although I haven't been to Thailand, I've eaten a lot of Thai food in Salt Lake, D.C. , L.A. and San Francisco and Tyler Florence's version was good, even if not really authentic. I ate it two days in a row with no regrets!

    White Poplar, your five spice tofu did look delicious. I haven't cooked with tofu much, but I do like it when other people cook it.

  10. I like the idea of simmering the lemongrass Kalyn! I've tried some Tyler Florence's recipes which always turned out great too!
    (ps. yes, I got my grill :D)

  11. how's the language in that book?
    i love tyler's recipes b/c they're very clear both in direction and flavor, but dear god, the way that man yammers on like he's a giddy teenager gets under my skin!
    thusly, i've avoided all his books wholesale... he needs a better editor imho!
    regardless, that soup looks DELISH!

  12. This soup looks really good ! I love cilantro so I can't wait to try this recipe specially since the weather is getting colder. I might try it also with shrimp.

  13. Maryam in MarrakeshOctober 27, 2006 at 1:49 AM

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I hope you will be featuring some Moroccan recipes!
    Thai food is my personal favorite but am wondering where to get the lemongrass and Kafir lime here in Marrakesh. Perhaps lemongrass could be grown here. It would be worth it because I love lemongrass tea.

  14. Wow does that soup look fabulous! And the bright green cilantro on top? Icing on the cake. Er. Soup. No wait a minute...


  15. That looks fantastic, Kalyn! I love versions of coconut chicken soup.
    As a reference, I've had good luck with for finding fresh Thai produce like the galangal and lemongrass - not too many local places by me stock it either, so I can order from there and freeze it.

  16. Yum! It's funny, I just made Tom Ka Gai last night. It's one of my favorites to order when I go out for Thai. My photos aren't as pretty as yours, but I'll be posting about my soup in the next day or two if you'd like to stop by!

  17. wow thanks for da thai soup!
    i jus luvd it whn i accidentally had it last month in a chinese resto. i wanted da recipe badly.

    and hey nice site ..!


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