I SAY TOM KHA GAI, YOU SAY TOM KHA KAI

As you may have noticed, I have a soft spot for all things language. Frustration took place as I tried to figure out the correct spelling for the name of this delicious Thai soup. It is often tricky to go from a language such as Siamese  to something that would convey the correct pronunciation in English. After a lot of searching around, I found a video that made me even more puzzled. In the video, they spell it as Tom Kha Kai, but when I listen to the girl my ears detect a clear sound of G for the third ideogram, making Tom Kha Gai my preferred way to spell it.  You can listen for yourself and decide. Click here and fast forward to 1 min and 50 seconds. No matter how you decide to spell it, this is a delicious and very simple soup with all the contrasting flavors that are typical for the cuisine of Thailand.

TOM KHA GAI
(adapted from Marta Stewart)

1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, bruised with back of a large knife
3 cups chicken broth
1/8 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 piece of ginger, about 1 inch long, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp dried galangal powder
salt and pepper to taste
zest and juice of 1 lime, separated
1/2 Serrano pepper, sliced thin
1 + 1/2 pound chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into strips
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced thin
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 can (about 13 oz) full-fat coconut milk
fresh cilantro leaves

In a slow-cooker, combine chicken stock, lemongrass, fish sauce, brown sugar, galangal,  lime zest, chicken and mushrooms. Cover and cook on high for 2 ½ hours (or on low for 4 hours). Add coconut milk and shredded carrots, and cook on high 30 minutes longer (or on low for 1 hour). Stir in lime juice and cilantro leaves.  Serve topped with additional fresh cilantro, if desired. You can also save the soup without the coconut milk and carrots, and add those when re-heating on top of the stove for about 15 minutes, until the carrots are just cooked.

Serve while pretty hot, with a squeeze of fresh lime juice right on the bowl to brighten up the flavors even more.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Fishing out the lemongrass…

Comments: What a delicious soup!  Oddly enough, I am not too fond of shiitake mushrooms in stir-fried preparations, even if they are quite popular in Oriental recipes. Something about their texture turns me off a little. But in soup or risotto, I love them. They do impart a lot more flavor than regular mushrooms do, and in this soup they are definitely a must.  Lemongrass is also a favorite flavor of mine, and we are lucky to have a very healthy lemongrass plant growing in our backyard. When I need it, I go out with a pair of scissors and cut a stalk very close to the ground.  The smell is just amazing…

I made this soup on a Sunday and as so often happens, it was my lunch three days in a row. I ran out of cilantro on day 2, but it was not a big deal. At all. Adding the coconut milk at the very end of the cooking time together with the carrots make sure that the carrots retain some of their bite, and the coconut flavor seems brighter than if it cooked for hours from the beginning. Little details matter, especially when using the crock pot. That dump and forget approach is definitely not the tastiest path…

No slow-cooker? A regular pan will work, just keep the soup at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through, then add the coconut milk and the carrots for a while longer.

 

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6 thoughts on “I SAY TOM KHA GAI, YOU SAY TOM KHA KAI

  1. Isn’t this a mouth-watering soup ! I usually spell if your way but there are two other modes well accepted 🙂 ! And may I compliment you on the plating: the red soup bowl so fits the difficult-to-photograph dish and yours looks so elegant! I have not added carrots: must try. And I love shiitake and buy some almost every week but maitake and even oyster ones are quite ‘legal’ depending where in Thailand or Laos you are cooking . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Curious – two other ways? Ka Khai, Ka Gai and what else????? It is such a musical language, as all tonal languages are… I listened to the girl pronouncing Pad Thai and practiced until I felt it was just right… not that easy! 😉

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      • I speak no Thai or Laotian but if I remember correctly the differences on pages of Down Under recipes were Ka/Kha and Kai/Gai . . . . the ‘Ka’ a couple of times could have been simply an incorrect spelling naturally . . . . but I DO love to make and serve and eat this . . .

        Liked by 1 person

        • interesting… I do think that the Ka Gai sounded right to me based on the girl – but with the tonal languages a lot can escape the untrained ear – Ka and Kai could be so subtle…

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