Tom Kha Gai - Thai Coconut Chicken and Mushroom Soup
I’m always quite impressed by the amount of my friends and acquaintances that know to order Tom Kha, when I actually didn’t really grow up eating this. My mom made Tom Saap or Tom Yum Nam Sai which is a very similar dish but without the richness of coconut milk. After many requests to make this, I tested out a few varieties and got addicted.
There are several ways to do this dish. You can buy stock, concentrate it and add chopped chicken, but I prefer to simmer bone in chicken breasts and shred the meat Since we’re already simmering herbs, adding 20 minutes of hands off cooking time to slow simmer boned chicken breasts isn’t too far off.
A lot of this depends on keeping the broth white. I stay away from using granulated stock because you get a lot of color for not a lot of flavor pay off. In selecting mushroom, I would stay away from using dried mushrooms. The flavor and color of dried mushrooms are too intense. I used baby shiitakes where the gills are still white. Pay attention to the color of the gills because that will darken the broth giving your soup an off color unappealing stock. Enokis also work really well.
A lot of restaurants use Nam Prik Pao, which is a roasted chili jam. I think it taints the stock and hides the flavor of the herbs. I also think its a cheat to cover up the lack of attention to the broth. This broth, though not hard, has to be slow simmered - never at a rolling boil, strained and incorporated with coconut milk to preserve the beautiful whiteness that is this soup. Lime juice and chillies are added right before serving to prevent it from going bitter. Unassumingly packed with flavor.