Asia: Tom Ka Gai Soup – native to Thailand
- Good quality Chinese chicken stock – 1 cup
- Coconut milk – 1 cup
- Fresh or frozen lemongrass – 1/2 a stalk
- Galangal – fresh – 6 slices (If you don’t have any at home, you can order some online)
- Kaffir Lime Leaves – 2 (hand-torn)
- Thai bird’s eye chillies (or Serrano chillies) – 2-3 (big slices so you can avoid them easily)
- (If you don’t have any of the above, Amazon ships a package of all the fresh ingredients you need for the soup.)
- Fish sauce – 1 tbsp (The saltiness can vary a lot across brands, so start with less always.)
- Lime juice – 2 tbsp
- Sugar – 1/2 tsp
- Coriander (cilantro for the Americans) leaves – 2 tbsp
- Boneless chicken breast (or Tofu) – 2 breasts or 1 package
- Straw mushrooms (or regular button mushrooms) – 4 (sliced)
- With lemongrass, recipes generally only call for the bottom 6 inches or so (the white part). The rest is woody and can be trashed. Using the flat side of a cleaver or a heavy object, pound and bruise the lemongrass to releases the flavor before cutting into 2 inch segments. Easy with the cleaver or you can do way more than bruise the lemongrass – we don’t want any missing fingers!
- Pour the stock into a pot and bring to a boil. Then toss the galangal, lemongrass, sugar, and lime leaves in and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk, chillies and fish sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Lastly, add the chicken (or tofu) and mushrooms and cook till the protein is just cooked. (Chicken will be done shortly after you first see it turning all white on the outside – tofu can be cooked until you get the desired texture – 20 minutes for more meaty tofu and shorter if you like it tender).
- For the grand finale, turn off the heat and add your lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves (wait till the end to add the lime juice in order to maintain that citrusy goodness – the longer you cook it the more it will mellow). Test for saltiness and sourness. The galangal should give you some good earthy flavor, there will be some tasty salty/sweetness from the coconut milk, and a fair bit of lime and chili flavor. (If you need to kick up the salt factor, throw in some extra fish sauce – lemon juice will kick up the sour factor.
Enjoy! (Or as they say in Thailand, kin-khao-hai-a-roi-na กินข้าวให้อร่อยนะ)