THAI CHICKEN COCONUT SOUP (TOM KHA GAI)
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
2 stalks lemon grass (about 10-12”)
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1, 3” piece of ginger root or galangal root, cut into thin slices (no need to peel it)
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (including seeds)
1-3 Thai chilis, chopped (the more chilis, the spicier your soup!)
1 chicken carcass (with some meat left on it) OR 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
2, 13.5-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons cane sugar (or brown sugar)
2 medium-large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼” thick slices
6-ounces shiitake mushrooms, caps sliced and stems discarded
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup water
½ cup cilantro, chopped (plus more leaves for garnish)
½ cup scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
Lime wedges for garnish
Optional – 3-4 cups cooked sushi rice
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
Cut the lemon grass stalks into 4-5” pieces and smash them with a meat tenderizer until the stalk is broken and the inner layers are visible (this allows the flavor to escape into the sauce). Add these to the hot oil along with the onions, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and Thai chilis. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the carcass to the pot along with the salt and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and cover the pot. Let cook for 1 hour. Note – if you are using chicken breasts, sear them for 2 minutes, skin side down in the veggies before you add the stock and salt.
After 1 hour, remove the chicken carcass from the pot and set aside to cool. Pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve. Place the strained stock back in the pot. Skim any fat that has developed off the top of the stock and discard.
Add the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, cane sugar, carrots, mushrooms, and bell peppers to the pot and bring back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the curry paste and sugar. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the carrots are tender when pierced with a fork.
While the stock cooks, shred any of the remaining meat off the chicken carcass (or the breasts). If there is not enough meat, you can add a boneless chicken breast to the stock at this time and shred it when it is cooked through.
Skim any additional fat off the top of the soup add the chicken meat to the pot. Bring the soup back to a low boil.
Dissolve the corn starch in the water and add it to the pot. Stir to slightly thicken for 2-3 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the cilantro, scallions, and lime juice. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Serve hot, garnished with more cilantro, scallions, a lime wedge, and rice on the side for dipping.