Tom Kha Kai Soup
On our very first trip to Amsterdam, Tony and I stumbled upon this little Thai restaurant across the street from the AirBNB we were staying in. We walked inside and there were paintings all over the walls of mouths and distorted cartoon faces with big ears and the tables were decorated with white business shirts and ties. It was all very strange, but we were starving and didn’t know where else to go so we took a seat at an open table.
They gave us our menus and served us these shrimp chips with peanut sauce to snack on while we reviewed the menu. After staring at the menu for a solid fifteen minutes, we still were only able to decipher about five of the dishes because everything on the menu was so unlike the typical Thai restaurants we frequented in Chicago… and those shrimp chips were so amazing that I couldn’t really focus on anything else. We ordered some Thai beer, Tom Kha Kai Soup, Pad Thai, and took our chances on a few other dishes that I can’t remember for the life of me.
After a few moments, they served us our beer in these trippy little slanted glasses so that every time you put down your glass you thought it was going to fall over. Not very conducive for our state of mind. Then they brought out our Tom Kha Kai soup, and without waiting a single second, I took my first spoonful and it was SCALDING HOT. Like, so hot that it was burning the insides of my mouth and tongue and I couldn’t swallow it and in the exact same moment I realized exactly how hot my soup was, a fellow patron was walking into the restaurant, locked eye contact with me, and had to witness as I was literally drooling and spitting out the soup like a dog. He just started laughing at me and I would have too because it was kind of a funny situation, but I was too busy with chugging beer to cool down my mouth. Anyway, after letting the soup cool down for a few moments, I was able to taste the lovely concoction of spices, sweetness, and sourness that is Tom Kha Kai soup and it was delicious.
After devouring the rest of our meal, they placed two small plates with a small, white, cylindrical mound in the middle of the plate. Tony thought it was some kind of marshmallow-gift from the chef since we ate so much, but as he popped it in his mouth to eat, the waiter came by with a tea kettle of hot water and poured it over my plate and the “marshmallow” unraveled and revealed itself as a small, damp towel to clean your hands with… Whoops.
Safe to say, between spitting out the soup and the towel incident, Tony and I were utterly embarrassed and we refuse to show our faces at that restaurant again. Thankfully, you can find Thai food all over Amsterdam and they always have Tom Kha Kai on the menu! Since Italy lacks any kind of food diversity, I decided to recreate the soup at home for a nice, warm dinner on a chilly Sunday night! It’s easy to make and can easily be adjusted to meet your palate!
Tom Kha Kai Soup by The Bite-Sized Baker:
2 quarts chicken broth
4 lemongrass stalks, smashed and cut into 1” pieces
12 kaffir leaves or ½ cup lime juice and 2 tablespoons lime zest
3-inch piece of galangal or ginger
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
16-ounces oyster or button mushrooms, sliced
3 13.5-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk
½ cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
5 Thai chilies, sliced
Cilantro, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish
Chili sauce, for garnish
- To make the soup, in a very large stockpot, combine broth, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and galangal and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes until flavors have melded.
- Using a fine-mesh strainer, transfer broth to a new stockpot and discard solids. On low heat, add the chicken and poach for 15-20 minutes, until chicken has cooked through. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are tender. Mix in coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, and Thai chilies. Continue cooking for five more minutes until flavors have melded. Taste and add more fish sauce, sugar, and chilies as desired.
- Serve with freshly chopped cilantro, extra lime wedges, and chili sauce.