For years, I ordered Tom Kha Gai every time I went out for Thai food. Rich and intense, the aromatic flavors of this Thai coconut chicken soup convinced me it’d be too complex and time-consuming to make at home. Well, that was the case until I attended a cooking class in Chiang Mai a few years back, and experienced first-hand how simple it is to make this classic (and Whole30-friendly) Thai classic at home!
Truth be told, in order to make Tom Kha Gai the right way, you need to track down some key aromatic ingredients: galangal, lemongrass, and makrut lime leaves. These ingredients are not super easy to find, but they’re essential to this dish. I’ve been able to find these ingredients at my local Whole Foods Market and at my neighborhood farmers’ market, but if you can’t, I suggest searching out a nearby Asian market that caters to South East Asian customers—you’ll likely find all these items there, too. Take a gander in the produce section and you might strike gold!
I know some of you are thinking, “ginger kind of looks like galangal—so maybe I can use ginger instead!” NOPE. After all, the “kha” in Tom Kha Gai literally means “galangal,” so you can’t have Tom Kha Gai without it. Yeah, I know that some recipes indicate that you can substitute ginger (a similar looking rhizome) for galangal, but it imparts a very different flavor to the dish. Galangal adds a cooling, pine-y flavor, while ginger is sharp and spicy. It won’t taste the same. Trust me.
When buying fresh galangal, make sure that it has smooth skin without any blemishes and is firm to the touch. For this recipe, prep the galangal by washing it and chopping it into ¼-inch thick slices. (Don’t bother peeling it ’cause you won’t actually be eating the galangal—or the lemongrass and lime leaves, for that matter.) Thick slices work better—that way, it’ll be easier for you to fish out the galangal coins later.
Can’t find fresh galangal after going to the ends of…
Read the full recipe on Nom Nom Paleo.