Tom Kha Soup!


2 T diced ginger
4 stalks lemongrass, husked and thinly sliced
15 oz chicken stock
1 can (about 15 oz) coconut milk
16 crimini mushrooms, halved from head to stem
½ onion, sliced into thin wedges
4 Thai chili peppers, seeded and sliced into rings
¼ head of broccoli, lightly steamed and cut into small florets
1 large carrot, lightly roasted and cut on the diagonal into ¼ inch pieces
1 cup frozen green beans or steamed fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 T soy sauce
1 T lime juice

Everybody loves Thai food.  It’s warm, slightly spicy, slightly sweet, and has deep, deep flavors we don’t usually get in American cuisine. 

When I get a craving but don’t want to spend money on a restaurant meal, I make this soup.

I use equal parts chicken stock and coconut milk as my base.  (My blessings on* for giving me the idea about splitting your base between milk and stock; before I’d simply used coconut milk and couldn’t figure out what was lacking.  It was stock.)  For about four servings, use the whole can of coconut milk and the equivalent (about 14 oz) in stock. 

First, throw some fresh minced ginger (or diced or sliced, if you like big bites of the sharp stuff) into a large, heavy pot over medium heat. If you feel like spending a dollar an ounce on lemongrass, put some slices of that in, too.  (I usually don’t, but this is slightly better when you splurge on it.)  Let these gain fragrance for a minute or two, stirring once or twice, and then pour in your stock. Start it off around medium heat, then one it starts to almost bubble, simmer.  Use this time to prepare your other veggies.  When your veggies are done, your stock is probably warm enough to proceed.  

In my Tom Ka, I need mushrooms (I prefer crimini), onions, and some sort of pepper, bell or otherwise, plus cilantro for topping.  That’s about it.  The other veggies I throw in, if any, will depend on what I have in my fridge.  Last time I used leftover steamed broccoli, roasted carrots, and frozen green beans.  I had Thai chilies on hand, so I used that instead of bell pepper.  Thai chili is hot, so don’t think you can throw in a handful of the tiny, pointy pods and call it a day.  They’re hotter than jalapenos, not as hot as habaneros.  I use about two per four-person recipe, and I meticulously scrape out the seeds before slicing them veeery thin and simmering them with the ginger and lemongrass. I throw the chilis in after the broth but before everything else.  This helps mellow and dissipate their flavor.

I like to halve my mushrooms, use thin, separated sections of onion, thinly slice my carrots on the diagonal, and cut the broccoli into manageable, bite-sized florets.  Frozen green beans are already a pretty awesome size.

After your stock has simmered for a while, when your veggies are prepped, go ahead and add in the coconut milk.  Make sure you stir the can up from the bottom so the top isn’t all clotted creaminess and the bottom is all water.  Mix the milk and the stock together well.  Here’s where you get to experiment with your favorite Thai flavors.  If you have Thai basil, mince that and throw it in.  I expect a certain saltiness with my Asian foods (yay Americanized palates, I suppose), so I add in a hefty couple of dashes (more like a pour, really) of soy sauce.  Lime is also exquisite in Tom Ka, so try simmering some minced Kaffir lime leaves.  I just use lime juice from a bottle, about three or four capfuls to a four-person serving.  Once the broth is exactly to your liking, add in your veggies.

For those who have never had Tom Kha, or would rather follow a strict recipe, here goes:

After your stock and milk are mixed, mince a couple of Thai basil leaves and a couple of Kaffir lime leaves and add to the pot.  This is optional because these ingredients are expensive and sometimes hard to find.

Pour in 1 T of soy sauce
Add 1 T lime juice
Add your veggies and simmer over medium heat for about five to ten minutes.
Top each bowl with five to six cilantro leaves, roughly torn. 

I’ve heard this soup is good for people with colds or sore throats, probably because of the chicken stock, bounty of vegetables, and avoidance of dairy.  But I make it because it’s good for me as a person.  I feel happy when I eat this soup. 


What are some of your “happy foods”? Do you have a different ingredient or technique for your Tom Kha recipe?


Serving size: 1/4 of recipe
Calories: 242
Carbs: 14 g
Fat: 16 g
Protein: 9 g
Sodium: 623 mg
Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 7 g

To veganize:
Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. 

To make low-sodium:
Use low-sodium soy sauce, or omit it altogether.  Using balsamic vinegar with molasses should help give it a kick without making it bitter.  Try about a teaspoon of each and add either to taste from there.

*Find his full recipe here!

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