Saturday, March 8, 2008

Tom Kha Gai

This is the best soup I've ever had in my life - at least how Jack Yoss at Ten 01 made it last month. It is tangy, smooth, complex and a little sweet. He created it for family meal and made quite a lot; so, knowing I love soup, he offered me some in a take-home container. I took it home and opened it as soon as I stepped in the door. Lemongrass and chiles and lime and coconut, oh my. I didn't bother to heat it up again but slurped it up. Jack made his with some roasted pork still clinging to the bone and left the inedible bits of lemongrass and ginger in the broth. Oh, the broth! My favorite part of any soup, this broth shone with citrus cut with coconut creaminess and finished with a spicy kick.

I tried to re-create it with this recipe, but the results were not the same. Oh - it makes a good soup, though, don't get me wrong. It was easy and flavorful and I would make it again. But, I'm working on getting Jack's recipe.

This recipe is based on one from another blog I recently discovered: Tigers & Strawberries. It's a cinch to put together after you locate the ingredients.

Tom Kha Gai adapted from Tigers & Strawberries
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk (I used the 'lite' version)
1 quart chicken stock
3 stalks lemongrass, the bottom third only, outer layers removed, cut into 2-inch chunks and smashed slightly with the back of a knife
5 slices galangal, 1/4 inch thickness
5 kaffir lime leaves
5 dried red chiles
fish sauce
6 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
green onions for garnish

In a large pot combine the first 6 ingredients and bring to a boil. Add fish sauce to taste. (I used about 4 teaspoons but could have used more. This soup has no salt in it, remember, all of the salty taste comes from the fish sauce.) Reduce heat and let simmer for one hour.

Remove lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal from broth. Take out the chiles and squeeze the insides into the soup. You can add the pods back in, too, or discard them - it's your choice.

Add chicken and mushrooms and simmer until chicken is cooked through. I cooked mine 10 minutes, but less would probably do it.

Remove from heat and add lime juice. Ladle into individual bowls and top with cilantro and green onions.

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