Here’s my slightly simplified take on Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut soup). The name translates as “boiled galangal chicken soup.” Which makes it a little ironic that this version doesn’t include galangal (the same kind of irony that I make my gumbo without okra, when the dish’s name is a word for okra). Of course, you can add galangal and kafir lime leaves to make your Tom Kha more deeply flavored. You can also add a tomato or two cut into wedges, if you like that kind of thing.
½ c. dried shitake mushrooms
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
½ medium onion, cut into strips
2 Thai chilies, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 stalk lemon grass, smashed
2 Tbsp. red curry paste
4 c. chicken stock
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
3 (13.5 oz.) cans coconut milk
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. salt
green onion, sliced, for garnish
chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Place the mushrooms in a bowl with 2 cups of hot water. Set aside to soak for at least two hours.
Heat the oil in the large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, chilies and garlic and sauté until the onion turns translucent. Add the garlic and chili paste and sauté for an additional two minutes. Slowly add the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Stir in the soy sauce, fish suace and brown sugar. Add the mushrooms (and a little of the soaking liquid) and smashed lemongrass and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and chicken. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the lime juice; season with salt.
Serve hot, garnished with green onion or cilantro.