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Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)


January 5, 2011

Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

I was going to title this post “De-toxify: Tom Kah Kai” (get it, it rhymes?!?), but my husband looked at me like I was one of the top five biggest nerds on the planet, shook his head, and then asked me if I thought I was Lindsay Lohan checking in for more rehab.

No…I am definitely not Lindsay Lohan, but I do love to start off each year with a bit of a cleanse. For the month of January* I don’t drink. No beer, no wine, no one little cocktail at happy hour, nothing. And I have to say that it always feels great. I find that after the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year marathon it’s pretty easy to be feeling like a little detox would be good.

This soup is the perfect remedy. It is healthy, utterly satisfying, and gives the rewarding impression of having great healing powers as it cleans out your sinuses and awakens your senses. It is very quick to make and even yummier the next day. One thing to keep in mind if you’re making a big batch is that it will get spicier on day two and three, so if you’re not a hot fan, plan accordingly.

Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

Modified from Use Real Butter who modified from Thai Cooking Made Easy by Sukhum Kittivech…ah the delights of recipe evolution!

Two 12 oz. cans coconut milk (or light coconut milk if you prefer)

1 cup chicken broth (if using bouillon cubes, I’d recommend two per one cup)

1/2 stalk of lemon grass, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 kaffir lime leaves (I can only find these some of the time. If you can’t find them at your local Asian market, just use a bit more lime juice)

8 quarter inch wide slices galanga (this is like ginger, but has a more complex flavor. If you can’t find it, the former will work)

1/4 loosely packed thai basil, coarsely chopped

6 red thai bird chilis, sliced or slit pending on your spicy tolerance (sliced is hotter)

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken, cut into thin, wide strips

3/4 pint white mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered

2 tsp fish sauce

3 TB lime juice

1/2 tsp red thai curry (optional)

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp honey

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus more for topping

  1. Place the coconut milk, chicken broth, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galanga, thai basil, and chiles in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring so well combined.
  2. Add the chicken, mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice, thai curry, sugar, honey, and cilantro. Bring to a boil and cook until the meat is done (being careful not to let it boil over, which is exactly what I did).
    Mushrooms simmering
  3. Reduce to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes on low, stirring occasionally, and letting the flavors mingle.
  4. Modify seasoning pending on preference. If adding more fish sauce, go slowly, that stuff is strong!
  5. Serve in bowls with cilantro sprinkled on top.

*True confession: I usually make it about three weeks.


  1. Rachel says:

    Step 1: located new asian supermarket aptly titled “Asian Supermarket” on Central Ave. in Albany. Road trip for ingredients pending!

  2. Wendy Walker says:

    So – no fish sauce, no cilantro or basil on hand – tofu instead of chicken, and the addition of some bok choi – and still a great recipe. Thanks for the inspiration for a yummy dinner.

    • Erina says:

      Bok choi would be a good addition! Did you steam it first or just let it cook in the soup? Fish sauce definitely does give it a deeper, more complex flavor and the stuff keeps for a long time, so if you get a bottle…plan on throwing a little bit into everything! Glad it was a success.

  3. […] craving for burgers and beers afterward. I did abstain, since I’m still trying to stick to my booze-free-month, but the Quiche Lorraine I had made this morning was a close […]

  4. debbie bengtson says:


    A hearty congratulations on the new gig. It sounds as fabulous as you are! I hope you are enjoying it!

    Second, what a wonderful blog! I’ve now spent …well, let’s just say a few minutes while at work reviewing your blog. I cannot wait to make Tom Kah Kai soup–it is totally my favorite, and I always thought it was some crazy secret Thai recipe that was impossible to cook. You have inspired me!

    I hope this message finds you well! I’m looking forward to new entries on Shut Up And Cook!


    • Erina says:

      Thanks Debbie! Thrilled to have you reading!

      Let me know if there are any other particular things you’re hoping to make this year and I’ll throw them into the roster to try. Coming up this week Smoky Chicken Paprikash that is so healthy (and yet still so delicious) you think there must be some trick.

      Stay tuned.

      Hope all is well!


      • Tammy Hori says:

        Great recipe, I will leave out chili’s too hot. Few sprinkles of sriracha is good;… that’s just me…this soup is amazing! Thanks for your comments and suggestions and explanations throughout. Helps a lot!

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