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Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass

Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass
One of the most-requested dishes in Thai restaurants is this soup, called tom kha gai. It is also easy to prepare at home, however, once you have the right ingredients on hand. While you may not be able to find kaffir lime leaves or galangal (a gingerlike rhizome) at your market, grated lime zest and fresh ginger work well in their place. Bottled fish sauce and canned coconut milk are now widely available, so this delicate and fragrant soup can grace your table often.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 8 large slices peeled fresh galangal or 4
      slices peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 large lemongrass stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces,
      crushed
  • 16 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn in half,   or grated zest of 1 large lime
  • 2 cans (each 14 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. Thai fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. red chili paste
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into
      bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 lb. fresh white mushrooms, brushed clean and
      thinly sliced
  • 5 small fresh red or green chilies, sliced
      crosswise paper-thin
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine the broth, galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves. Place over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.

Reduce the heat to low, add the coconut milk, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and chili paste; mix well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and simmer until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and simmer until tender, about 1 minute more.

To serve, ladle into warmed bowls. Float the chili slices and cilantro leaves on top.
Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Soup for Supper, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998).