Tom Kha Kai. Without Kai.
I know, it sounds a bit funky like a disco song. Although it is not a disco song it certainly will make you do some dances of joy when you try it for the first time. I was traveling with a friend throughout the jungles of Thailand … ok maybe not a jungles, maybe just Bangkok. Pretty much the same thing. The first evening after we dropped off our luggage at our hostel we went into town to find some food. I already heard from friends that the Thai kitchen was amazing. We settled down at a random stall and ordered some noodles and soup. I took a bite from the soup and for one second I thought, this girl is on fire! But after taking another spoonful of goodness I just wanted more. It was fragrant, spicy, tangy and full of vegetables. From that moment I knew I had to try everything that the Thai kitchen has to offer. From Chinese chives pancakes to pad thai; from crepes to quail eggs. It was all a joy to eat! There was no such thing as not liking it and if you asked me to name my favorite, I really couldn’t. So let’s start here; Tom Kha Gai is also known as Thai coconut soup traditionally made with chicken. It’s a lovely soup full of fragrant herbs like kafir lime leaves, lemongrass, and cilantro roots. Also has this richness from the coconut milk, freshness from the lime juice and the saltiness of fish sauce. Almost forgot the galangal or may known as Laos, the secret ingredient.
Galang or Loas is a rhizome and can find the in Thai-, Vietnames- and Chinese kitchen. Often related to and resembles ginger but there is a very difference in taste. Galang has a sharp flavor almost like pepper, and a pine like and citrus aroma. It is a bit harder then ginger so you need to cook it longer before it gets soft. You can find them fresh, dried or in powder form. Besides the awesome taste, it also has some benefits. Just like his cousin Tumeric, it contains anti-inflammatory properties and, therefore, is beneficial in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Chew on it when you suffer from motion sickness, nausea or if you have a bad case of diarrhea. It improves blood circulation and is a host for antioxidants. Oh! Let’s not forget to mention it is full of iron, sodium, Vitamin A & C. Pretty impressive for a root!
So let me introduce you guys, Tom Kha Kai without the Kai (which mean chicken). Instead of the chicken, I added some more mushroom and some sprouts. The best part, you don’t have to simmer it for hours and hours. So it is great when you have unexpected guests for dinner. Serve with some rice noodles, freshly chopped cilantro, and wedges of limes. There. You have an eye-popping, colorful meal. Without any hassle.
Tom Kha Kai without the Kai
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 cups water
6 stalks lemongrass, bruised
1 piece galangal root (about 50 grams), sliced thinly
5 cilantro roots or stems
2 Thai chilies (feel free to add more to your taste)
3 gloves garlic
5 kaffir lime leaves
1 cup sorted mushrooms (I recommend buttons and shitake)
1 or 2 tablespoon fish sauce (omit if you are strictly vegetarian or if you are vegan)
juice from 1 lime
pinch of salt
Chop off the top and end of the lemongrass, and cut the lemongrass into thumb-size pieces. Give them a little crush. Crush the galangal with the back of the knife, a hammer, frying pan or if you are civil enough, just cut the root into big pieces.
Cut the cilantro roots from the stems and give them a little crushing. Put the leaves aside. If you are afraid that it is going to be too spicy for your taste you can use one chili instead of two. Cut them into little rings. Peel the garlic, give them a good crush. If you have big cloves of garlic just chop them up roughly after you crushed them. Slice the mushrooms and put them aside.
In a big pot place the coconut milk, cilantro roots, lemongrass, chili, galangal, lime leaves, and garlic together, put the lid on and let it cook on low heat for about 45 minutes until a gently shimmer. When it shimmers add in the mushrooms and let it cook for 10 minutes. Add the fish sauce and lime juice. Serve it warm with some fresh cilantro, fresh chili, sprouts and lime wedges on the side. Optional: You can also serve some rice noodles or rice.