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Tom Kha Gai (Chicken) Soup Recipe

Tom Kha Gai is a spicy, coconut flavoured chicken soup, one that is popular with both Thais and people who simply love Thai food and Thai culture.

Tom Kha Gai is very similar to Thailand’s national dish of Tom Yum, and the process involved in preparing both dishes is almost identical. The major difference between the two is that Tom Kha adds coconut milk to the soup, making it creamier and slightly sweeter.

The spices and seasoning used to make Tom Kha Gai includes onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime, coriander, lime juice, fish sauce, chillies and soy sauce.

Grind together these ingredients using a mortar and pestle to make a paste, but leave out the lemon grass, onions and ginger as these will be added in larger pieces.

Some Thai chefs will use a mixture of coconut milk (purchased in cartons) and coconut juice (fresh from the coconut) to make Tom Kha Gai. The reason for this is simply due to the exceptional flavour produced by using fresh coconut juice. However, using coconut juice alone is not enough, as it will not boil down or thicken the soup itself, and so coconut milk, which is thicker and creamier, is also added to the soup mix.

One slight variation on the theme of Tom Kha Gai is to add a small quantity of fresh shrimp to the recipe, half a cup would be more than enough. Remember that the chicken is the primary protein in this dish, but the shrimp will enhance the creamy taste of coconut. 

There is some debate regarding how chilli should be added to the recipe. Some suggest that only fresh chilli should be used, to make the soup fiery. Whereas others believe the chilli should be fried first, as this imparts a more smoky flavour to the soup. Try both to see which you prefer.

A slight variation of the dish depends on where in Thailand it is made. In North East Thailand (Isan) and in Laos dill weed is added, giving the soup a more tangy taste. The traditional Thai version of Tom Kha Gai leaves the dill weed out.

Although Tom Kha is usually made with chicken, it can be made with either pork or seafood, chicken is just the most common Tom Kha ordered.

Tom Kha Gai is also often ordered as a stand-alone dish, without rice, as an accompaniment to beer or whisky, much in the same way we eat peanuts or crisps when drinking in a bar in the Western world.

You can order everything you need to make this delicious Thai dish at home from our 1-click recipe page.

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