Tom Kah “Gai” – Thai Coconut Milk Soup

Traditional flavors of lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, fish sauce, Thai chilies and of course, coconut milk. A favorite soup from Thailand.

Tom Kah is a creamy bowl of goodness that brings me straight back to Thailand…although the first place I ever had it was at a Thai restaurant in Calgary – Khao San Kitchen. It’s sooo good. There’s a bit of sour (from the fish sauce) that balances out the creamy flavor of coconut milk, but the stars of this dish are the subtle flavors you get from lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal. If you can’t find lime leaves….I honestly wouldn’t make it. They add so much depth to this dish and I couldn’t find a substitute that comes close to matching it (really, I’ve tried). I have substituted ginger for galangal before – they aren’t the same, but it will do in a pinch, especially since galangal isn’t as prolific as some other Asian ingredients at the supermarket.

Tom Kah Gai…..Usually you’ll find the word “Gai” in the name of this soup, which is Thai for “chicken”. My recipe is a vegetarian version but I’ve also included how to incorporate chicken if you’re craving those proteins. 

If you’re that kind of “souper” (yes, I’ve created a new noun for those people who eat/love/bathe in soup) who likes breaking out in a sweat, nose running, face red, when eating soup…triple the Thai chilies.

My better half, Bryce, loves this. 
He’s a weirdo.
But so am I.
And you know what they say…..2 weirdos are better than 1, especially when enjoying Thai soup.

Tom Kah Gai - Thai Coconut Milk Soup

Tom Kah “Gai” – Thai Coconut Milk Soup

Skill Level: Basic | Prep Time: 10 min | Cook Time: 30 min | Total Time: 40 min


2 cans coconut milk
4 cups chicken broth
​3 stalks lemongrass
3 1-inch pieces of galangal – thinly sliced
10 Kaffir lime leaves
1 red Thai chilli (3 if you can take the heat), thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes or 1½  cups cherry tomatoes – cut into bite size pieces (if using cherry, slice in half)
1½  cups sliced mushrooms
½  yellow onion – chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. palm sugar
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. lime juice
kosher salt and ground black pepper

For garnish
3 Tbsp. chopper coriander
2 green onions, thinly sliced

For Tom Kah Gai (aka with chicken)
1 chicken breast thinly sliced & chopped into 1-inch pieces

Tom Kah Gai - Thai Coconut Milk Soup

For Tom Kah

Heat the coconut milk & chicken broth in a pot over high heat just until boiling.

Meanwhile, slice the lemongrass stalks into 4 pieces. Take a mallet or one or a heavy object (like a can) and hit the lemongrass to crush it slightly. For each lime leaf, make a couple small tears in the leaf. This will help release both the lemongrass & lime leaf flavour in the soup. Then add the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves & chillies to the broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Tom Kah Gai - Thai Coconut Milk Soup

For Tom Kah Gai (with chicken)

If you are adding chicken to the soup, this is where you’ll do so. Add the chicken & cook until the chicken turns white in colour, ~ 6 minutes.

For Both

Add the tomatoes, onion & mushrooms. Cook for another 2 mintues.
Turn the heat to low and add the sugar, fish sauce & lime juice. Add more to taste. Season with salt & pepper.

Feel free to garnish with coriander & green onion.

Tom Kah Gai - Thai Coconut Milk Soup

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