Everyone I know has been under the weather lately.
Since December, Dillon has had bronchitis, pink eye in both eyes and then the croup. Now my little Jake is sick. My husband is sick. I’m sick. All I want is a nice warm soup to soothe my aching throat (and for someone to feed it to me).
The soup that I’m craving is Tom Ka Gai (Tom what?!)
Commonly known as Thai coconut soup, Tom Ka Gai is a fragrant blend of chicken and mushrooms, simmered in coconut milk with lemongrass, chilies and lime. If I could bathe in this soup, I would.
My version is a little bit different as I didn’t have
chicken, mushrooms, chilies all of the ingredients on hand. I made it up as I went along, adding a couple of carrots for color and a new ingredient; roasted chili paste.
Roasted chili paste or Nam Prik Pao is frequently used in Thai cuisine for its complex depth of flavor. It’s a magical combination of roasted chilies, sugar, garlic and shrimp paste (gasp!) cooked down to a jam-like consistency. The flavor is sweet and spicy, and it takes this soup to a whole new level.
You can find roasted chili paste in most grocery stores, usually in the international aisle. It’s funny, because I’ve walked past it a million times never knowing what it was. Now I know, and it’s delicious. Try it in stir-frys, curries and rice dishes.
To me, a soup like this is heaven especially when you’re sick. I’ve been eating it for the past 3 days, and loving it.
* Any leftover ginger and lemongrass can be stored in the freezer. For the ginger, peel the entire root and wrap it in plastic wrap. For the lemongrass, wrap the stalks individually and freeze for up to 3 months.Print
The key to this soup is finding the right balance between salt, sweet, and acidity.
For the soup:
- 1x 14 oz. can of coconut milk, 2 tbsp. reserved
- 2 c. organic chicken broth
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 carrots
- 1 large shallot
- ginger (2 inch piece)
- 1 tbsp. cilantro stems
- 2 tbsp. roughly chopped lemongrass (about 2 stalks)
- 2 limes
- 1–2 tbsp. roasted chili paste (not curry paste) or Nam Prik Pao*
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- cilantro leaves
- coconut milk
- lime wedges
*For this recipe, I used Thai Kitchen brand roasted chili paste.
- In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Peel and slice the carrots into thin rounds. Add them to the pot.
- While the carrots are cooking, thinly slice the shallot and ginger (peeled).
- Clean and wash the cilantro. Roughly chop the stems.
- Remove the outside layer of lemongrass and roughly chop the stalks.
- Add the shallot, ginger, cilantro stems, and lemongrass and saute until soft but not golden, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently so that it does not burn.
- Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to make (2), 2 inch long strips of lime peel avoiding the inner white part as it tastes bitter. Skewer onto a toothpick (for easy removal) and add to the pot.
- Add 1 tbsp. of roasted chili paste and stir well to dissolve.
- Reserve 2 tbsp. of coconut milk for the garnish and set aside.
- Add the rest of the coconut milk and chicken broth, and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the lime peels.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree. At this point, the soup will not be completely smooth as the ginger and lemongrass fibers can be difficult to break down.
- Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve, stirring with a small ladle to help guide the liquid through. Discard the pulp.
- Pour the soup back into the pot and simmer gently. If it’s too thick, add more chicken broth. The consistency should be brothy.
- Add the fish sauce.
- Taste the soup and add more roasted chili paste if you like it spicy (I use the full 2 tbsp.)
- Add lime juice to taste. Adjust with extra lime and salt if necessary.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves. Drizzle with coconut milk.
To make this soup vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Note that roasted chili paste contains seafood products.