This is Bob’s favourite but he likes Zap’s version much more than mine. But never mind, for the time being he has to put up with my home cooking. There are a million and one recipes of this Tom Kha Kai – my version is likely to be similar to nine hundred thousand of them as basic ingredients are roughly the same. I use dried chillies – as they are easy to come by and give the soup some colour.
250 grams Chicken meat, sliced
100 grams Mushrooms, I use Portobello as they are firmer and don’t disintegrate if you cook them a bit too long
1-2 Lemon Grass stalks, cut into 5 cm long, bruised with the flat of your big knife or rolling pin
4-5 Kaffir Lime leaves, torn by hand
3-4 slices of Galangal (you can buy frozen or dried from Asian groceries)
1 small Red Shallot (or 1/4 Red Onion if you cannot find shallots)
1 1/2 cup of good quality Coconut Cream with high fat content otherwise your soup will be too thin
2 1/2cups of Chicken Stock (guess what - I use my magic chicken stock powder to make up the stock)
Chilli Oil (optional)
Toasted whole Dried Chillies to garnish (optional)
Lime juice (one lime should do but cannot tell how many limes exactly – it depends on the limes – you have to taste as you go)
Fish sauce to taste – start with a little bit first
Coriander leaves to garnish
Boil the stock with shallot, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal.
Add coconut cream and chicken, reduce the heat and boil gently until the chicken is cooked. We don’t want the coconut cream to split too much (unlike green or red curry – which you want it to split until the oil surfaces).
Add mushrooms. You can season the soup with fish sauce and chilli flakes at this stage but do not add lime juice until the soup is removed from heat and ready to serve.
Season to taste with more fish sauce, lime juice and more chilli flakes and/or chilli oil. Chilli oil will add colour to the soup and a bit more heat too - so use your judgement when adding the chilli thingies. Tasting as you go is the key for happy tongue and tummy.
Break a couple of toasted dried chillies (if you can handle the heat) and sprinkle on top of the soup along with coriander leaves.
If you cannot stand the heat, you can substitute chilli flakes with capsicum (bell pepper) flakes.
Chilli Oil: Heat 2-3 tablespoons of canola oil in the saucepan (with thick bottom), add 1/2 tablespoon of chilli flakes. Fry quickly until fragrant – take care not to burn them. Remove from heat. Wait until cool then pour into a small glass jar. This chilli oil will keep well in the fridge and will be very useful for many dishes.
Be warned - If you chilli flakes are very hot, please make sure that you have your extractor/rangehood fan on high and/or open the kitchen windows.