Thai Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup (Tom Ka Gai or Kai Tom Ga)

Posted at October 9, 2015 by admin on category Soups

  • 12 oz Canned coconut milk, such as Chaokoh
  • 1/4 lb Chicken breast, cut into small chunks
  • 1 Lime; juice and grated peel
  • 1 4″ piece of lemon grass, cut into very thin, (1/16″) slices on the diagonal
  • 3 sl Galanga (more if desired), OR substitute fresh ginger
  • Hot chile peppers to taste, cut into thin circles
  • Cilantro for garnish

* Note: preferably Thai birds, with serranos an acceptable substitute,
(though I’ve used sweet Fresno chiles in a variation I’ll describe below).


Pour the lime juice on the chicken and let
stand while you prepare the rest of the soup. In a medium saucepan, place
the coconut milk, lemon grass, grated lime peel, galanga or ginger, and
(optionally) chiles. (The optional part is that if you don’t want the whole
dish to taste spicy, add the chiles later; the earlier you add them, the
hotter the resulting dish.) Bring the coconut milk to a simmer.

When the soup is simmering, add the lime-soaked chicken pieces and stir to
distribute them. Reduce the heat so the soup stays just below a boil and
cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or till the chicken pieces are finished cooking.
Remove from heat and serve immediately with fresh cilantro leaves for

Now, the *best* way I ever had this soup was with pieces of fresh grouper
instead of chicken. I also added slices of kumquats instead of the ginger,
and used the sweet Fresno chiles instead of Thai birds. We also served it
over Vietnamese rice noodles. Was it southeast Asian or Caribbean? Who
cares, it was wonderful. If you can’t find grouper, it’d be good with any
tender, delicate white fish — sole, maybe, or a very fresh sea bass, or
maybe little chunks of monkfish. I believe I’ve had this with shrimp as
well. (Grouper, BTW, is a type of fish common in the Caribbean and, if I
recall, in other warm-water parts of the world; the flesh is very white,
very tender, and quite delicately flavored. I’ve seen it in one Asian
grocery store in the Bay Area, as well as in the Bahamas, so I’d guess that
Gulf Coast netters should be able to find it readily.)


  1. Galanga is similar to ginger, an edible rhizome available
    in most Asian groceries. If not available fresh, you can usually find it
    frozen. (Well, this is the SF Bay Area; if you can’t find it at Tin Tin or
    the New Castro Market, you have to have friends smuggle it in from Bangkok
    for you… Other parts of the country may vary.)
  2. Chile peppers add a lot to the dish; I’ve had it so hot that I could
    barely eat it, and I’ve had it completely smooth, sweet and mild. I like
    it in the middle.
  3. Lemon grass adds a lot to the flavor and aroma, but as near as I can
    tell it isn’t edible unless you puree it. (If there’s sufficient demand,
    I’ll print my recipe for Vietnamese turkey fajitas.) I just eat around the
    slices of lemon grass and ginger.

Related Posts to Thai Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup (Tom Ka Gai or Kai Tom Ga)

Comments are closed.