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Gusto

Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Ka Gai)

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Coconut chicken soup is made citrusy by lime, lemongrass and galangal. Galangal may look similar to ginger, but whereas ginger is hot, galangal is cool, and it has a refreshing, almost piney flavour. You don’t need to peel it, but just use the main part of the galangal and not any of the offshoots. You can also freeze galangal: cut it into coins, place separately on a baking sheet, and freeze; once frozen, transfer the coins into a freezer bag.

  • Serves

    4

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. (110 g) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1-inch (2.5 cm) piece unpeeled galangal
  • 4 lime leaves
  • 2 red bird’s eye chilies
  • 2 cups (500 ml) coconut milk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water or chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) fish sauce
  • 1/4 tsp (1 ml) finely grated or chopped palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh cilantro leaves, to garnish

Directions

  1. Slice the chicken into 1/4-inch (6 mm) strips. Set aside.
  2. Bruise the lemongrass by laying it on the cutting board and whacking on the surface with the dull side of a chef’s knife. Cut into 2 1/2-inch (6 cm) pieces. Cut the galangal into 1/8-inch (3 mm) slices, tear the lime leaves into thirds, and cut the chilies in half, removing the seeds. Set aside.
  3. Bring the coconut milk and water (or stock) to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, not letting it boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the reserved lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, and chilies. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the chicken, and reduce the heat if the soup starts to boil.
  6. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the lemon (or lime) juice, fish sauce and sugar. Serve garnished with the cilantro.
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