Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ Thai Coconut Soup with Mushrooms

soup

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

ingredients

Ingredients:

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)

Instructions

tomato

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.

lemongrass         smashing lemongrasss

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.

add shrimp shells to brothDefrost 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.

straining flavoringsStrain 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.

shrimp soup

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Roasted Mushroom-Barley soup with Beef Broth

roasted mushroom barley soupThis earthy soup is made with four kinds of mushrooms, although you can vary the type. It’s rich made with beef broth, but vegetarians can use vegetable broth as well. Serves 6

½ cup pearl barley (not to be confused with Pearl Bailey)

5 cups water

1 lb beef femur  bone

2 medium cloves garlic

2 leeks, white and light green part only.

1 onion

4 stalks celery

2 large carrots, peeled

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp salt, to taste

1 Tb olive oil

2 lbs crimini (brown) mushrooms

6 fresh shiitake mushrooms

4 King mushrooms

1 large bunch of oyster mushrooms

4 dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 to 1/2  tsp white pepper, depending on how peppery you like your soup

3 Tbs cooking sherry

several grinds black pepper

several sprigs fresh thyme leaves to garnish.

Make beef broth: Bring the water to a boil with the beef bone. Chop leeks, celery, carrots and garlic finely and add to the water. Grind the dried shiitake mushrooms coarsely in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder. Add them to the vegetables along with the salt and dried thyme. Simmer for at least 3 hours. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, skim the fat off the soup. Remove the bone and blend the soup.

Bring soup to a boil. Add barley and let simmer for 20 minutes. While barley is simmering, heat oven to 425 degrees. Clean mushrooms well (I soak them several times in a salad spinner, then clean each one with a brush or paper towel.) Trim the woody ends from the  crimini and shitake mushrooms then toss with olive oil (or spray with olive oil spray) and roast them  for 20 minutes until they are soft.  While they are roasting, chop the oyster and King mushrooms and add them to the broth along with the white pepper to taste.

roasted mushroomsAdd the liquid from the roasted mushroom to the soup. Cut the roasted mushrooms in quarters and slices and add them  to the broth.

Simmer  for 20 minutes. Correct seasonings, adding several grinds black pepper and sherry. Sprinkle a bit of fresh thyme leaves on top. Serve the pearl barley inside the oyster mushrooms.

Potato-Leek soup with cheese, mushroom, cauliflower variations

Potato-Leek soup

3 cups chicken broth (You can make this a vegan dish with vegetable broth)

1 leek, white part only

2 Russet potatoes

1 tsp. salt (to taste)

5 grinds black pepper

chopped leeks and potatoes

Skim refrigerated broth and bring to a boil. Cut the white part of leeks lengthwise and chop coarsely. Peel two russet potatoes and slice thin.

boiling potatoes and leeks in broth

Boil in the broth until soft, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

potatoes and leeks in broth in blender

Let cool, then blend until pureed.  (If  you have a immersion blender, you blend it in the pot.)

Cheese Soup (no cream or butter!)

shredded Jarlsberg cheese

Add 1 cup low-fat Jarlsberg or sharp cheddar cheese to pureed soup, stir until melted.

No cream added Mushroom Soup


Make potato-leek soup. Quarter 10 mushrooms for each 2 cups of potato-leek soup. Boil soup and cook mushrooms on medium for 10 min. You can blend a few spoonfuls of mushrooms in the broth. That’s it. It’s practically non-fat.

Mushroom-cheese Soup

Add cheese to mushroom soup.

Cauliflower with cheese and Mushroom Sauce


cauliflowerets cooked in broth

Boil cauliflowerets in broth for 5 minutes until soft, then remove with slotted spoon. Pour cheese and mushroom soup over them and top with minced fresh chives.

cauliflower cheese and mushroom soup

Cauliflower Cheese and Mushroom Soup

Blend a few spoonfuls of cooked cauliflower into the cheese and mushroom soup, then pour a bowlful over cooked cauliflowerets. Top with fresh chives.

minced chives

Top soups with fresh minced chives.