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Thai-Style Coconut and Chicken Soup

4 Servings

45 minutes

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Tom kha gai is a Thai soup rich with coconut milk but balanced with chili heat and lime, plus the tropical flavors and aromas of galangal, lemon grass and makrut. Chicken and mushrooms give the soup substance without dulling the aromatics. In Bangkok, chef Piched Kaewhem taught us how quickly and easily tom kha gai comes together. We set out to develop a recipe modeled on the Thai classic, but using readily available ingredients. We opted for lime zest in place of makrut leaves and ginger instead of galangal—imperfect substitutions, but good enough to make a flavorful, fragrant broth. A couple tablespoons of store-bought Thai roasted chili paste—called nam prik pao—brought savory background notes. But the coconut milk was a challenge. We tried many brands of canned coconut milk and got mixed results—from watery brews to curdled messes. Ultimately, we made our own coconut milk by blending dried coconut with water and straining the puree; we then fortify it with canned coconut cream (a more consistent product than canned coconut milk) and coconut water. If you like, serve jasmine rice alongside.




Don’t mistake cream of coconut for coconut cream. The former is a syrupy, sweetened mixture typically used in desserts and cocktails. The latter, a higher-fat version of regular coconut milk, is what you want. Coconut cream is sold in cans and aseptic packages of varying sizes. A 13½- to 15½-ounce can is fine here, or even three 5.4-ounce cans. A few tablespoons more or less of coconut cream won’t matter.

45 minutes


  • cups unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 3

    cups warm water


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Tony L.
October 23, 2023
Great soup
I loved the fact of making your own coconut milk which I found easy to do and a lot better than the can. Great soup and will save the recipe for company.
Keith D.
October 21, 2023
SO delicious, but take the shortcut!
This soup is DELICIOUS. I’ve made it twice now. I followed the recipe the first time (including the whole bit with the homemade coconut milk). The 2nd time, I took a shortcut and used 1 can of light coconut milk and 1 can of water, and it came out just as good. The 2nd time I made it, I also left the lemongrass, ginger, and shallot in larger pieces to make it easier to fish them out of the broth. Take the shortcuts, and this is a super simple recipe (especially for MS).
Elsa M.
October 1, 2023
As good if not better than restaurant!
Once again, a winning recipe, very easy to do and the flavor is beyond this world.
Margaret J.
September 28, 2023
Lovely soup
Quick and easy to make.
Theodore A.
September 26, 2023
Good flavor but greasy
I'm not convinced with this technique; it tastes good but the coconut cream gives it a distinct greasiness that's unpleasant and subbing lime peel for makrut lime leaves introduces too much bitterness if you leave any pith at all. Source some Chaokoh coconut milk and skip the flakes/cream altogether.