Street Food Swoop – Tom Kha Gai

Creamy, slightly sour, with only a slight chilli-tang, tom kha gai is the Thai dish for you if you can’t handle too much spiciness.

The main ingredients of tom kha gai are chicken and oyster mushrooms. Slices of tomato add a dash of colour. Galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass add flavour and cut through the creaminess of the coconut milk. Before I knew what the name was, I called it chicken and mushroom in a sour coconut broth.

Street food vendors seem to like adding cubes of jellied blood to this dish too – perhaps one of my least favourite Asian food ingredients.

It’s actually a pretty easy dish to cook, especially if you have a Thai super-nanny to explain it to you.

Our super-nanny says most restaurants and food stalls leave out some ingredients to preserve their profit margins. All I can say is our home-cooked version of my favourite Thai street food is pretty magnificent, and much more handsome than some tom kha gai offerings I’ve seen.

Tom kha gai ingredients

Here is super-nanny’s tom kha gai recipe. (Serves 6)

500g chicken breast, sliced
one brown onion, sliced
three small ripe tomatoes, quartered
one cube of chicken stock
200g oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
250ml coconut milk
knob of galangal, julienned
one stick of lemongrass, sliced diagonally into 1cm pieces
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of chilli paste (more or less according to taste)
1 teaspoon of chicken powder
three lime leaves, shredded
one spring onion, roughly chopped
four sprigs of coriander, roughly chopped
Half a lime

1. Fill a saucepan half-full of water and bring to the boil
2. Add sliced chicken to the boiling water.

Unsuccessfully trying to make raw chicken look attractive

3. Add the sliced onion and tomato and the chicken stock cube. Put the lid on the pot until the water returns to the boil.
4. Add the mushrooms, coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, oyster sauce and salt. Simmer for five to 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
5. Turn off the gas or remove from the heat. Scoop up one ladle-ful of stock and put it in a separate bowl with the chilli paste and chicken powder. Mix well and return the mixture to the pot.
6. Add the shredded lime leaves.
7. When ready to serve, add the chopped spring onion and coriander and reheat the contents of the pot to a simmer. Squeeze the juice from the half-lime just before serving.

Serve as a soup, or with jasmine rice as a main meal. We like to eat this dish with a side of som tam (green papaya salad) and some stir-fried vegetables. (Som tam recipe coming soon, by the way!)

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10 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. oh, YUM. i need to make this. might have to get the glasses, first. what the heck is a brown onion?!!
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  2. Entirely too many ingredients for me, but I would love someone else to make it for me 🙂
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    • Barbara says:

      I didn’t think the list of ingredients was very long. But there is a bit of a cheat here in Asia. At the market, they sell you all the herbs in a bundle!

  3. Crystal says:

    I am SO excited to read the green papaya recipe. I spent a month in Chang Mai a few years ago and have been missing that daily deliciousness since then!
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