Thai Coconut Ginger Chicken Soup
(Tom Kha Gai)

Serves 2 - 4

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This soothing soup is easy to make and requires just a few key ingredients to recreate its classic Thai flavor. All Asian markets carry galangal (Thai ginger), lemon grass, Thai basil, Thai fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves. Galangal (or kha) is cousin to the ginger we use in America, but it is a tougher, knotty root with an aromatic, camphor-like flavor. Long-regarded as medicinal, it is being researched for its digestive, anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting effects. Lemon grass has a long greenish stalk with a lemony “citronella” flavor that is known to calm anxiety. Thai Basil and kaffir lime leaves provide the soft, almost soapy flavor we associate with this soup. If you can’t find them, substitute Italian basil leaves. Thai fish sauce is an essential ingredient that you’ll find in the international section of most American grocery stores.

Note: Freeze any remaining kha, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves for future use.

  • 2 (14 oz.) cans organic coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup shallots, minced (or red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 inch of galangal root (kha), sliced thinly
  • 2 red Thai chilies, seeds discarded and minced (use gloves) or ¼ t. chili flakes
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 3-inch long slices, then bruised with back of knife
  • 8 oyster or shitake mushrooms, sliced or 14 oz. can of straw mushrooms
  • 3 cups organic chicken broth
  • 2 organic chicken breasts, sliced into small, bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup thinly sliced zucchini, carrots or baby bok choy
  • 2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey, coconut or agave nectar or brown sugar
  • 1 cup ripe red tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • ¼ cup Thai basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Gather and prep the ingredients. Warm a soup pot over medium heat and add ½ cup of the white coconut cream (off of the top of one can). As soon it starts to bubble, stir in the shallots, ginger, garlic, galangal, chilies and lemongrass and sauté over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and chicken broth, stirring gently. Bring to a low boil and immediately add the sliced chicken, mushrooms and zucchini. As soon as it begins to bubble again, add the fish sauce and sweetener and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally and take care that the coconut milk doesn’t scorch.

Add the kaffir lime leaves and chopped tomatoes and let simmer another 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are cooked. Remove the lemongrass and galangal pieces. Then stir in the Thai basil leaves, sea salt and lime juice. Adjust seasonings and serve in a soup bowl with jasmine rice on the side.


Read about the health benefits of mushrooms here.

Sally LaMont, ND, LAc