icon Tom Kha Gai
(Thai coconut milk soup with chicken)

(from Lemongrass Restaurant, Bangkok)

If the heat of a Tom Yum soup proves too much, here is a milder alternative. Tom Kha Gai is a coconut-based soup in Lao cuisine and Thai Cuisine. It is similar to Tom Yum Goong in that it is made with galangal leaves, lemon grass and chicken, but typically less spicy.

Here is a recipe from Lemongrass, our favorite restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 24 in Bangkok.


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2-3 Thai chili peppers
  • 1 lime
  • 1 piece galangal, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2-4 sprigs cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chicken
  • 1-2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)


  1. Crush a piece of galangal, 1 inch thick with the flat part of a cleaver or meat tenderizer (or you can be civilized and slice it). Drop the galangal, coconut milk and water, into a 2 quart pot. Let the pot boil at medium to low heat. Reduce heat to simmer and stir frequently, otherwise the coconut milk will curdle. Add sliced chicken and fish sauce. If you have the kaffir lime leaves, remove the central stem from the leaves and add kaffir lime leaves to the soup. Let boil again and turn off the heat.
  2. In serving bowls, add crushed fresh Thai chili pepper. Watch out for the crushed chili, it will clear your sinus better than wasabi. If you do not like it hot, do not crush the peppers, just float them for decoration. Squeeze the 1/3 of a lime in each bowl. Pour the soup in bowls and add cilantro for garnish. Serve hot.

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Last updated: October 25, 2009
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.