When I was little, before the days of Deliveroo, we use to get takeaway food from a little Thai restaurant nearby. My order would rotate between green curry, pad Thai and this delicious coconut soup called ‘Tom Kha.’ I remembered it recently, and after a little research, discovered how simple Tom Kha is to make.
On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of soup. I do love a spicy laksa or a tomato soup, but other than that, soups aren’t generally what I get excited about. Pumpkin soup or cauliflower… pass. But this Tom Kha recipe is another exception to that – it’s warm, smooth and deliciously spiced.
It’s pretty chilly in Melbourne now so a delicious Thai soup is just what you need. The recipe is pretty flexible in terms of the vegetables you add in. Think of the soup as your base and then add whatever you fancy. Winter brings root vegetables, pumpkin and squash, dark leafy greens, Asian greens, fennel, potatoes, onions, garlic, ginger cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, beetroot, carrots, mushrooms and parsnips. All perfect for comfort food recipes, and all of which you could add into this recipe.
But equally, this could be enjoyed at any time of the year, just use whatever is in season. I always like to have something green and a little crunchy in this soup, and Asian greens work perfectly, including; pak choi, Kailaan (Chinese broccoli), wombok (Chinese cabbage) and tatsoi.
The recipes you come across for Tom Kha don’t vary too much, the ingredients are fairly consistent though the quantities vary. Some people only use coconut milk, some people add chicken, some people don’t add a little sugar – but it’s all more or less going to produce the same result! I originally developed the recipe for the bamboo basics company Boody who like to focus on vegan recipes, and whilst it is a great option for vegans it is something everyone will enjoy.
Some notes on the recipe:
- With the chillies – before you throw in 5 of them, or even one of them, cut into each one and press your tongue to them to make sure they aren’t crazy hot. Obviously if they super hot, REDUCE what you add. You can always add more but you can’t easily reduce the heat once it’s infused the soup!
- If you want it creamier go heavier on the coconut milk. The quantities are very forgiving so if you don’t want that extra ½ can of coconut milk leftover just add it in and adjust the seasoning accordingly at the end.
- A tip on limes, roll them on the bench with a decent amount of pressure to soften the flesh. This will make them extra juicy! You can also use lemons if you don’t have limes, though limes are slightly better.
For anyone unfamiliar with galangal, it’s from the ginger family and has a similarly-delicious fragrant, herbal flavour composition. It’s also very similar to ginger physically and incidentally has similar stomach-soothing properties.
Galangal root is primarily used in Asian cooking, being most often associated with Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian and Indian cuisine. If you can buy or grow fresh galangal – that’s wonderful as you’ll be able to make a myriad of delicious soups and curries. For anyone who struggles to get fresh galangal, don’t fret, you can get it dried or minced in a jar from any Asian grocer and sometimes the supermarket.
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 white or brown onion, finely sliced
- 2 cups mushrooms (shitake, button, cremini)
- 600 ml organic coconut milk
- 2 cups organic vegetable stock
- 8 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 knob of galangal
- 1 knob of ginger
- 1 stalk of lemongrass
- 3-5 Thai chillies
- 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 limes
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
- Small bunch of coriander
- Small bunch of Thai basil
- 1 cups vegetables (Tomatoes, bok choi, pak choi, broccolini, capsicum, bean shoots, baby corn etc.)
Wash and quarter your mushrooms (you want them to be bite site). In a non-stick saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms to sweat a little, until the onions are translucent.
Peel and finely slice the galangal and ginger.
To the saucepan: add the coconut milk, stock, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, chillies, salt, fish sauce, lime juice and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, letting the broth infuse.
Add the coriander, basil leaves and any additional vegetables you want in the soup - cook for 3 more minutes. Serve hot.