02 February 2011

Tom kha phak (Thai coconut vegetable soup)...and an award!

Ever since returning from Thailand, I haven't been able to get the taste of the tom kha gai (coconut soup traditionally made with chicken, with vegetables in my case) that I had at this little jewel of a restaurant on Koh Phi Phi out of my mind. The creamy coconut broth delicately infused with lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger) and kaffir lime leaves and then finished with lime juice, fish sauce, red chillies and cilantro is, for lack of a better description, like a sensory orgasm for the mouth. Yes, it's that good!

In the dreary, cold Paris winter, Luis and I have been desperate for anything to remind us of our wonderful Thai vacation. After picking up some Thai ingredients at one of the Asian shops in the Belleville area of the city, I was determined to recreate the tom kha gai that we'd had on Koh Phi Phi. I found a recipe in a wonderful cookbook that I picked up in Bangkok, Thai Food and Cooking: A Fiery and Exotic Cuisine: The Traditions, Techniques, Ingredients and Recipes by Judy Bastyra and Becky Johnson, adapted it and made it vegetarian. You could easily add the 300 grams (11 ounces) of chopped skinless, boneless chicken breast called for in the original recipe if you want a non-vegetarian version. Other vegetables (e.g. pumpkin, halved cherry tomatoes, even pineapple chunks) can be substituted/added as well. Perfect for a winter supper!

Adapted from Judy Bastyra and Becky Johnson
Serves 4

4 stalks lemongrass
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
1 cup water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 generous inch galangal (Thai ginger) or ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 kaffir lime leaves (or the zest of 1/4 of a large lime)
1/2 large onion, chopped into large pieces
7-8 large mushrooms, quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 can baby corn, rinsed and drained and chopped into thirds
Juice of one large lime
1 teaspoon nam pla (fish sauce) or soy sauce
Thai red chilies, chopped (I used about 3 and left the seeds in, so it was quite hot! You can reduce the number of chillies or deseed if you don't want as much heat)
2 stalks of garlic chives or spring onions, chopped into large pieces
Handful of cilantro, chopped

1. Cut off the white parts of the lemongrass stalks and chop them finely. Bruise the green parts of the stalks with the back of a large knife.

2. Bring the coconut milk, water and vegetable bouillon cube to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. 

3. Add the lemongrass, galangal (or ginger), ground black pepper and half of the kaffir lime leaves (or lime zest). Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Note: At this point, the recipe called for straining the soup to remove the solids. I preferred to keep them in the soup for additional flavor infusion, but I'm sure it would be fine to remove if you don't want to eat around them.

4. Add the onion, mushrooms, carrots and baby corn. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and remaining kaffir lime leaves. Ladle into bowls and serve garnished with the chopped red chillies, garlic chives or spring onions and coriander leaves.

In other news, the lovely Elisabeth of Food and Thrift Finds gave me a very sweet award...the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. A nod to the wonderful sense of community and sisterhood that exists between the food bloggers of the world, this award is a recognition of the role that we all play in contributing to that community and sisterhood. I am truly honored to receive it!

Since starting this blog a few short months ago, I've gotten to know a lot of amazing women (and men!) all over the world through their blogs. Their incredible ideas, writing and photography are truly an inspiration. I would like to pay this award forward to all of them, but I am highlighting below ten sisters whose blogs I have been particularly enjoying as of late. Please do check out their amazing work! Enjoy, and congratulations to you all!

(in no particular order)


  1. Your Soup looks amazing, and congrats on the award..really glad that our wonderful bloggers are passing it on!!!

  2. Your soup looks divine - I would do away with the corn, but the rest is gorgeous! Congrats on your award.

  3. You had me at lemongrass and red chilis! :D And congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Thank you Ramya!! You are so kind to pass this award to me, I am so grateful!
    I am so glad you posted this recipe, one of my most favorite soups in the world, and I have always wanted to make it. I will let you know how it turns out!

  5. Thank you for the award :) it's so nice to get it :)
    And soup looks really lovely, I like dishes with coconut :)

  6. Oh wow, that looks absolutely wonderful! I so love Thai food, and this soup hits the spot! Yum!

  7. Yum, tom kha gai is my favorite soup. I am for sure going to have to try your version, it looks amazing

  8. Aw, thanks! I'm enjoying your blog, too! That soup sounds fantastic, with or without chicken.

  9. I am a sucker for Thai food and this soup looks positively delicious with fabulous colors!

    Congrats on your award :)

    US Masala

  10. Your soup looks very yummy! I am still waiting for the green and red curry recipes - Mom

  11. One of my favourite soups of all time :-)

  12. Thanks for the award!!!!

    This soup looks sooooo darn delicious! I bet it help you get in the tropical zone and out of your dreary surroundings! I would so love to try this. I need to hit up a Thai market. You've certainly inspired me even more to try fresh thai food! I've only made one thai dish thus far....need to up it :D

  13. Divine. Im so obsessed with Thai food and this looks stunning!

  14. Congrats on the award! I love such soups. Thai food is so lovely.



  15. I am feeling the love!! I mosied over to this post to check out this incredible soup (which I love despite having never been anywhere near Thailand). What do I find? My blog's name on the Sisterhood of Love! Thank you--I will pass along the good vibes. Congratulations to you! Your blog is like a little vacation spot for me. Cheers and ciao!

  16. Absolutely loved ur recipe and spice.. awesome.