Tom kha gai is the coconut-based soup common in the central part of Thailand. Simply made with coconut milk, herbs, chilli and fish sauce, some areas do not add lime juice but use tamarind puree instead to add that vital hint of sourness. Chilli powder can be added to increase the heat, if you like more spice.






Skill level

Average: 3.1 (57 votes)


  • 8 small dried red chillies
  • 600 ml coconut milk
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 large stick lemongrass, cut into 8 cm lengths
  • 1 × 60 g piece galangal, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 large red shallots, peeled and bruised
  • 300 g chicken breast fillet, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 100 g oyster mushrooms, torn
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamarind puree
  • 6 red birds-eye chillies, bruised
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 12 sprigs coriander, roughly chopped
  • 10 sprigs Vietnamese coriander, cut into 1–2 cm lengths

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Toss the dried chillies in a dry heavy-based frying pan over medium heat until slightly scorched and aromatic. Place 4 of the chillies in a mortar and crush with the pestle.

Combine the coconut milk, chicken stock and sugar in a large heavy-based saucepan and stir over medium heat. When the mixture comes to the boil, add the lemongrass, galangal and shallots and stir to combine. Add the chicken, mushrooms, fish sauce, tamarind puree and birds-eye chillies and reduce the heat to low, then simmer for about 4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime juice, 4 of the kaffir lime leaves, 8 coriander sprigs and 6 sprigs of the Vietnamese coriander. Add the crushed chilli to the soup, then stir well.

Garnish the soup with the remaining coriander, Vietnamese coriander, kaffir lime leaf and fried chillies, and serve.


Recipe from Spice I Am by Sujet Saenkham, with photographs by Rob Palmer. Published by Lantern.