Tom Kha Gai

One of the things we miss most about living in SE Asia is the food.  Fruits fresh from the trees, tantalizing spice mixtures and limitless seasonal vegetables.  While traveling around amazing food can be found almost anywhere – from the roadside to the markets to the fancy establishments.

We are continually in search of authentic Asian food in our area and when we travel.  It is always fun to compare the many variations of dishes we sampled in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, India & Nepal.  I learned how to cook a few things while living in Indonesia but still yearn to perfect many other dishes.  It was time to tackle Tom Kha Gai.  Surprisingly, I got it right for our tastes, my first try.

Tom Kha Gai is a coconut based soup that bursts with flavor – creamy, sweet, salty, tangy and rich.  There are a few ingredients that need to be purchased at an Asian food store but believe me, it is worth that special trip!  If you are not a regular customer at your local Asian food store, don’t be afraid to ask for help in finding the ingredients – lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves (sometimes in the freezer section) and galangal (a root that looks a little like ginger).  The rest of the ingredients – fish sauce, coconut milk, chili paste can be found in any grocery store Asian section.  Find fresh ginger, cilantro and limes in the produce section.

Tom Kha Gai

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2” galangal root, sliced
  • 2” ginger root, sliced
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, bruised
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, bruised
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chili paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 chicken breast (wild turkey or game bird meat), thinly sliced
  • 8 mushrooms, sliced
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Bring chicken stock to a boil.  Add galangal, ginger, lemongrass, sugar and kaffir lime leaves.  Lower heat and simmer 5 mintues.  Add coconut milk, chili paste and fish sauce.  Simmer another 5 minutes.  Add chicken and mushrooms and simmer until chicken is cooked (5-10 minutes).  Add lime juice and cilantro right before serving.

This recipe is from our book Cooking Game Birds, available at

Tom Kha Gai being demonstrated and sampled at the 2013 O'Laughlin Sport Shows.

Tom Kha Gai being demonstrated and sampled at the 2013 O’Laughlin Sport Shows.




Here’s a recipe from, Melissa Morse, a friend who has lived overseas most of her life.  She is an adventurous traveler and an amazing cook.  I will be trying her version of Tom Kha Gai next time I make it.  Thanks Melissa!  (P.S. Melissa’s is probably better since she has lemon grass, ginger root and kaffir lime trees growing in her yard!)

Melissa’s Tom Kha Gai


  • 2 tablespoon/s galangal , sliced thinly
  • 2 stalk/s fresh lemon grass, bruised and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon/s garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon/s fresh ginger, sliced thinly
  • 6 whole Thai chile peppers, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 cup/s chicken soup broth
  • 2 cup/s coconut milk
  • 1 whole large chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 5 whole fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 tablespoon/s fish sauce 2 whole limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoon/s fresh cilantro/coriander , chopped


Heat a small amount of oil in a wok or large saucepan. Briefly, saute the galangal, lemon grass, garlic, ginger, and 4 of the chiles, until aromatic. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add coconut milk, chicken and kaffir lime leaves. Cook until chicken is tender, about 2 minutes. Add fish sauce, remaining chiles, and lime juice. Garnish with coriander. Serve with a side of rice.

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