Category Archives: Thai

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai was one of the first Thai recipes l learned how to make back in college. This fragrant chicken coconut soup has a lovely balance of many flavors: spicy, savory, sour, and slightly sweet. The wonderful flavors come from the combination of a variety of ingredients: galangal root, Kaffir lime leaves, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, chili paste and coconut milk. The coconut milk adds a level of creaminess without making the soup heavy. This Thai dish and a few others were taught to me by an incredibly talented Thai chef who was in the United States on a temporary work visa. Over the course of a few lessons, she taught me this dish along with several others, but unfortunately her visa expired and she had to return to Thailand. I am forever grateful to have met her and to have learned from her the basic foundations of cooking Thai food.

Over time, I made some modifications to this recipe. Instead of the traditional straw mushrooms that most Thai restaurants use in this soup, I added brown beech mushrooms. You can’t find fresh straw mushrooms in the US, only canned versions, and I find that the beech mushrooms are similar in size to the straw mushrooms and have a similar texture. Also, I marinate the chicken pieces and poach them prior to adding them to the soup, which gives the chicken a tender and velvety texture. It is an extra step, but I think it is well worth it in the end. Enjoy!

Tom Kha Gai

Serving Size: 4
8 ounces of boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon of Mirin
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
Kosher salt
8 ounces of Brown Beech mushrooms, trimmed and washed
1-2 teaspoons of Thai chili paste*
1 tablespoon of minced fresh lemongrass
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 cups of homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
6 Kaffir lime leaves, divided
3 two-inch lemongrass stalks, bruised with back of a knife
5 slices of galangal, 1/4″ thickness
3 tablespoons of fish sauce (add more to taste), Red Boat or Three Crabs brand
2 teaspoons of organic sugar
1 1/2 cups of Thai coconut milk**
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and extra lime wedges for serving
Sea salt to taste
Red jalapeño slices
Thai bird chili slices, optional
Cilantro sprigs for serving

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1. In a small bowl, add the sliced chicken and Mirin. Stir. Sprinkle the baking soda all over the chicken. Stir. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Don’t over marinate to ensure a perfect texture.

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2. Add a quart of water in small pot. Add 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Add the mushrooms. Boil for 1 minute. Using a spider strainer, remove the mushrooms and transfer to a bowl.

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3. Bring the same water back to a boil. Add the marinated chicken, reduce heat to a simmer and poach for 1 minute. Turn off heat and set aside.

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4. Heat a 2-quart pot to a medium-high heat. Add the chili paste, garlic, and minced lemongrass. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock, add 3 Kaffir lime leaves and bring to a boil. Strain the stock and return stock to the pot.

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5. Add the lemongrass stalks, galangal, the fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste.

6. Strain the poached chicken and add it to the soup along with the mushrooms and simmer for 1 more minute. Add the lime juice, 3 Kaffir lime leaves, a few slices of the red jalapeño, and the Thai bird chili (if you like it really spicy).

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7. Ladle in individual bowls with a couple sprigs of cilantro. Serve with extra lime wedge.

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*You can find Thai chili paste at your local Thai or large Asian supermarket. Make sure you purchase Thai chili paste in soy bean sauce.

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**Thai coconut milk is available in the Asian food isle at you local supermarket.

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Ground Chicken with Thai Basil

I am a huge fan of anything spicy, but one of my favorite spicy cuisines is Thai food. I love the beautiful colors, layers of textures, and fragrant ingredients. Aromatic ingredients like curry, lemongrass, galangal, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce all lead to a wonderful balance of flavors in their dishes. Every bite of Thai food is an explosion of salty, sweet, spicy, sour and umami flavors. It’s the kind of food I crave I want something bold and spicy!

I first learned how to cook Thai food from a Thai chef when I was in college. She was staying in Los Angeles on a temporary worker visa. I met her on a Mammoth ski trip, but instead of bringing ski clothes, she brought a large cooler full of Thai ingredients! There were sauces, spices, herbs, produce, protein, and homemade stock. She taught me how to make five different dishes that weekend, and everything she made was absolutely delicious. I was so excited during my cooking lessons, I didn’t even take notes! But amazingly all her instructions sank right into my brain and got stored in my long term memory (though I eventually transferred the recipes to paper).

Here is one of the five recipes she shared with me, which is known as Pad Kra Pao Kai in Thai restaurants. It is made with ground chicken and Thai basil and is easy to prepare, but it does require a few ingredients from the Asian market. Her recipe calls for 3-5 chilies, but only I added one in this recipe so my kids won’t burn their tongue. You if like it extra spicy you can add a couple more. Enjoy!

Ground Chicken with Thai Basil

Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
2 heaping tablespoons of chopped garlic (about 5 cloves)
12 ounces of organic ground chicken
1 Thai Bird’s Eye Chili, thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
1/2 cup of red bell pepper, sliced in strips
1/2 cup of bamboo shoots, sliced in strips (fresh or canned)*
2 tablespoons of fish sauce (Three Crabs or Red Boat brand)
2-3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of organic sugar
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1/2 cup of chicken stock, cold
1 teaspoon of organic corn starch (Rapunzel brand)
1 1/2 cups of Thai basil leaves

image1. Heat a wok on high. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, sauté for 10 seconds. Then add the ground chicken all at once. Cook for about three minutes.

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2. Add the Thai chili (if using) and red bell peppers and cook for 1 more minute.

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3. Add the bamboo shoots and stir fry for 1 more minute.

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4. Add the fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and the sweet paprika. Stir to combine. Taste to see if you need the additional tablespoon of oyster sauce.

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5. Add the cornstarch to the chicken stock and stir to create a slurry. Add the mixture to the chicken and stir to combine. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken.

6. Stir in the Thai basil.

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7. Remove from heat. Serve with rice and one egg, sunny side up.

*Sometimes you can find the fresh bamboo shoots in the produce section. The canned version comes sliced in strips. If you’re using the one from the can, make sure you blanch the bamboo shoots. Boil in water for one minute then shock in ice water. Drain and set aside until ready to use.