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Jul 31, 2014 05:42 PM

Newbie Tom Kah Gai questions

My husband, who spent a lot of time in Thailand, loves this soup. I would love to surprise him with one that is homemade.

I have searched far and wide and watched dozens of videos. I've noticed that there are certain ingredients that every recipe has and certain ones that some add but not others.

For recipes using chili (or is it chile?) oil, is that an oil that has Thai peppers in it? Or what kind is best for that?

Do standard American Thai restaurants strain out the lemongrass, galangal and kaffir leaves? I know it's traditional to leave in, but I'm curious what restaurants do. It's what he always orders here too, so I'm assuming he likes the American Thai restaurant soups also. suggests basil leaves, but that's the only recipe I saw (I'm sure there are more) that used those. Wouldn't that taint the flavor? Or is that commonly used?

Any fish sauce suggestions?

What about accompaniments? Are there some easy recipes that would go good with this soup?

Do you have a Tom Kah recipe that is to die for? I'm all ears!

Many thanks for any direction whatsoever. I don't live in an area with a heavy Thai community so our resources are a little limited.

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  1. The chilli oil is optional, really - most Thais pop a couple of small bird's eye chillies (habaneros) into the soup (but which you can remove prior to serving, in case you accidentally bite into one).

    Lmeongrass, galangal & kaffir leaves are central to the recipe (as is coconut milk) - you can strain those out prior to serving if you want.

    Basil leaf is not a necessity.

    1 Reply
    1. re: klyeoh

      I agree with all you said except that Bird Chili is not the same as a Habanero.

      The Basil is more than not needed it is out of place in this soup.

    2. Agree with klyeoh.

      I'm not sure what you meant about fish sauce suggestions. Do you mean brand ideas, or how to use it in the soup? If the former, I think there are many on the board. I usually use Golden Boy (picture of a fat baby on the front). I wouldn't sweat the brand too much. As for using it in the soup, you definitely want it, and to a certain extent you add it to taste, to flesh out the soup.

      I'd never use basil in the soup, but I would use some cilantro.

      This recipe looks like it won't lead you astray, though I'd add straw mushrooms:

      1 Reply
      1. re: mary shaposhnik

        Oh yes, straw mushrooms are definite plus!