Monday, March 4, 2013

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Chicken Galangal and Coconut Soup)

We've been fighting colds in our house, and this spicy and delicious Thai soup just hits the spot.

There are definitely some specialty ingredients required for this recipe. Our grocery store carries most of the items, but we also have a lot of Asian groceries nearby. I have tried to list substitutes when possible.


  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Thai red chili paste (not the same as red curry paste), to taste
  • 4 C. unsweetened coconut milk (2 cans - I used one can full-fat and one can low-fat)
  • 2 C. chicken stock
  • 1 large stalk lemongrass, finely sliced (our grocery store sells it in a jar in the international aisle, if you can't find fresh)
  • 1 small piece of galangal, peeled and finely chopped (or substitute ginger, if you can't find galangal)
  • 1 green Thai chili and 1 red Thai chili, seeded and thinly sliced (you can substitute a jalapeno or other chili pepper), to taste
  • 1/4 C. lime juice
  • 2-3 Tbsp. fish sauce, to taste
  • 1 lb. chicken thighs or breasts, cut into small cubes
  • 2 C. sliced mushrooms, any variety
  • 8 oz. rice or other Asian-style noodles (optional)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, removed from the stems, for garnish
In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chili paste and cook for about one minute, until fragrant. Add the coconut milk, chicken stock, lemongrass, galangal or ginger, chili peppers, lime juice, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for 5-10 minutes more. If you want to make a hearty main dish, add the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so they don't clump. Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

Cooking Club: Mango Ice Cream

My friend Prassu had a great idea to form a cooking club. Every month or two, one of us will host the group at our house and choose a theme. Then, everyone cooks a dish to share. Our inaugural meeting had an Indian theme.

I got an ice cream maker for Christmas, so I was excited to contribute mango ice cream as my dish. We served the ice cream with gulab jamun - a delicious fried milk ball with rosewater syrup - and traditional Indian chai.

  • 1.5 C. mango puree (I used frozen mango, but if you can find good fresh ones, use those - simply puree the peeled, chopped mango in a blender until smooth)
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 3/4 C. whole milk
  • 1.5 C. heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
Whisk together all of the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved and all ingredients are well combined. Chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, then proceed with the instructions for your ice cream maker.

I have a Cuisinart ice cream maker, which is a snap to use. The machine comes with a freezable bowl, which speeds up the process - I keep it in my freezer at all times, so it's ready to go. When I'm ready to make ice cream, I simply mix the ice cream base and chill it, then put the frozen bowl in the machine, turn it on, and pour in the chilled ice cream mixture. In 15-20 minutes, the ice cream is ready! You can eat the ice cream as soon as it's finished - it will have the consistency of soft serve - or you can scrape the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours. Then, it will have the consistency of hard-packed ice cream. Simply let the ice cream soften for 10-15 minutes, scoop and enjoy.

Note: My ice cream maker yields 1 to 1.5 quarts of ice cream - the ice cream base can be no more than 4-5 cups of liquid. You may need to scale the amounts of the recipe for your particular ice cream machine.

Here are some other photos from the evening. Our menu included an appetizer of zucchini and onion pakora (sort of like Indian tempura) with coriander and tomato chutneys; undhiyu (a Gujarati curried vegetarian dish with different varieties of potato); palak paneer (spinach and paneer cheese); Bengali-syle fish curry (with a unique mustard sauce); roti (Indian flatbread); spiced whole-roasted caultiflower; chicken biryani (chicken, rice, and spices), two types of daal (lentil stew); vegetable curry; and cucumber raita (a yogurt sauce that helps cool the palate).