This creamy coconut milk soup, fragrant with lime, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro and galangal, pungent fish sauce and a bit of chili heat, is one of my favorite Thai foods.
I am fortunate to live within shopping distance of Monterey Market, Berkeley Bowl and several Asian markets that carry the authentic ingredients. If you can’t find galangal you can substitute its relative, ginger.
Serves 3 large bowlfuls
4 cups chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup)
2 inches galangal, sliced thin
2 stalks of lemongrass
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 Thai bird chili (bright red)
1 large Roma tomato
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
1 scallion, sliced
2 Tb fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup cilantro leaves
5 large basil leaves, julienned
14-oz can of coconut milk (low fat works fine, regular makes a rich soup)
½ raw chicken breast, thinly sliced, OR sliced leftover roasted chicken breast
OR 1/2 pound raw shrimp. Use medium shrimp or chop large shrimp into bite-sized pieces
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
Bring broth to a boil. Dip tomato in the boiling broth for a minute, and then cool.
While broth is heating, trim ends from galangal and slice thinly.
Remove a couple of inches from the root end of the lemongrass and the dry outer leaves. Slice the main stalk diagonally into 3 inch pieces, then smash the lemongrass with the blunt side of the knife.
Smash the galangal slices with a mortar and pestle, molcajete, or other heavy object to release their fragrance. Add these to the boiling stock along with torn kaffir lime leaves, julienned chili, and salt.
Defrost frozen shrimp by placing it in a container in the fridge the night before. If you are using it straight from the freezer, defrost in a colander under cool running water for about 8 minutes.) Shell the shrimp and add the shells to the broth for extra flavor. Put shelled shrimp in a container in the refrigerator.
Simmer the broth and seasonings for 30 minutes. You can make this part ahead of time and refrigerate.
Strain the broth into a bowl or another pot and discard the shrimp shells, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and chili pods. Heat the strained broth to boiling.
Peel the skin off the cooled tomato, then slice tomato thickly and stir into the broth along with the mushrooms and white parts of the scallions. Next, add the raw chicken (if using) or shrimp and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in coconut milk and heat for 5 minutes.
When meat is thoroughly cooked, stir in lime juice and fish sauce. If using cooked chicken, add it at this time. Pour soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, basil, and sliced green parts of scallion.