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Tom Kha Kai, the recipe for chicken soup with lemon coconut milk

by Pierre To
6 minutes to read
Recipe for Tom Kha Kai, chicken soup with lemon coconut milk

Tom Kha Kai is a delicious Thai soup prepared mainly with coconut milk and galangal. It is a lemony but not acidic broth, a real explosion of flavours.


Recipe for Tom Kha Kai
Tom Kha Kai recipe explained in video


Tom Kha (in Thai: ต้มข่า) means "the most important thing in the world. galangal soup" , Tom = Bouillon and Kha = Galanga, Kai = chicken.

English speakers write it Tom kha Gai.

Galanga is a rhizome plant of the Zingiberaceae family like ginger.

The rhizome of Galanga is widely used in the Thai cuisineIt is a medicinal plant which has aphrodisiac, digestive and anti-viral properties.

Galanga rhizome

Galanga rhizome

Recipe for Tom Kha Kai, chicken soup with lemon coconut milk
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4.47 from 15 votes

Recipe for authentic Tom Kha kai

Tom kha kai (ต้มข่า ไก่) is a popular Thai soup, which is eaten more like a curry than a soup.
It is a coconut milk based dish, so it is rich and creamy, full of delicious and well balanced flavour.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Thai: whole country
Keyword: Galanga, Soup
Servings: 4


Ingredients for the Tom Kha Kai

  • 400 g chicken 2 breasts
  • 6 cup coconut milk (If you use a can of coconut milk, you can add water to make it thinner)
  • 1 thumb galanga
  • 3 stem lemongrass
  • 1 white onion one large or two small
  • 2 tomato
  • 6 sheet combava
  • 200 g oyster mushroom
  • 5 - 10 Thai chilli
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 bouquet coriander


Preparation of Tom Kha kai

  • First take the inch-sized piece of galangal, cut off the stems and slice the root thinly.
    This can be a little difficult, so you may have to crush it with the top of your knife with your palm.
  • Next, take your lemongrass, cut off the bottom, remove the outer layer of skin, then cut it diagonally into strips of about 1 inch.
    This will help release its incredible fragrance.
  • Heat a saucepan over medium heat, and add about 3 cups of coconut milk. 
    Add the sliced galangal and lemongrass.
  • When your coconut milk starts to heat up, go back to your chopping board and slice the chicken.
    Slice the chicken into medium-sized pieces - they can be large.
  • Just before the coconut milk starts to boil, add the chicken, then add the remaining 3 cups of coconut milk.
    Now lower the heat to a medium level, as you don't want the coconut milk to heat up too quickly or burn.
  • Prepare your Thai chillies by removing the stems and cutting them diagonally.
    Add them directly to the soup.
  • Stir the soup, then add the oyster mushrooms
  • Your coconut milk should not boil, keep it on a low heat.
    Because coconut milk is so delicate, when stirring, make sure you move your spoon in one direction only, otherwise you run the risk of the coconut milk being shaken too much and it will start to curdle.
    Be gentle with the coconut milk.
  • Go back to your chopping board and peel and slice 2 small white onions into thick wedges (if your onion is really big, use only 1).
    Then put the onions in the soup.
  • Next, cut your tomatoes in the same way as your onions, into thick wedges.
    Wait until your tom kha kai is about to boil, then add the tomatoes.
  • Take the combava leaves, crush them, crumple them up with your hand to release their flavour and throw them directly into the soup.
  • Now add about ½ teaspoon of salt to start (taste to see if it is enough).
  • Stir your tom kha kai slowly and gently, for about 5-10 minutes, making sure it doesn't boil - and if it does - turn down the heat.
    The chicken, onions, tomatoes and other ingredients should be fully cooked, but the coconut milk should not be overcooked.
  • After about 5 to 10 minutes of cooking, turn off the heat completely.
  • Go back to your chopping board, chop a handful of fresh coriander and add it to the soup.
    The coriander will cook in the already hot soup.
  • The last step is to put some lime juice in a separate bowl, then add about 4 tablespoons of lime juice to the tom kha kai.
    And it's ready to be served.
  • Be sure to do a taste test to make sure it is salty and sour enough.
    You may need to add a little salt or lemon juice to get the flavour you want.


Some of the ingredients do not have to be eaten, the galangal, combava leaves, lemongrass stems and chilli are mainly for infusing!

Tom Kha Kai recipe explained in video

Photo Tom Kha: Globe-trotter; Galanga: Piano non troppo

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