Friday, February 02, 2007

Tom Kha Gai, Not Quite a Minimalist Soup

This blog has been short of soup. For one thing, it is something I’m not really good at. For another, good soup usually demands a lot of ingredients, time and attention. It is kinda against the minimalist principles here.

I've been taking some shots actually. Just didn't have a real good chance to bring them on. Tonight, a Friday night, is a nice quiet night. So here I am…

Last Christmas, I had four great friends coming for dinner. Ling Ling (my newly adopted sister), Ray (my newly adopted brother-in-law, by default), Lam Lam and Zia (names tell, two sweet girls!). I don’t remember exactly. That night we had about six or seven courses. Salad, soup, entrée, main and main again. Champagne, wine and more wine.

OK, it’s the soup. Yes, I think the highlight of the night was the soup, at least in terms of time and effort I put in. So I am singling it out and bringing it here.

Tom Kha Gai is a mild but spicy chicken soup, with the very unique flavour of galangal ("kha" in Thai) which creates a heavenly taste when combined with hot chilli, coconut milk, lime leaves and lemongrass.

To make it a little more special for the occasion, I added a different twist by introducing shrimps and squids.

Not-quite-minimalist ingredients:
half a litre of chicken broth;
6-8 kaffir lime leaves, shredded;
6 or 8 1-inch pieces of fresh lemongrass, bruised slightly to release flavour;
1-inch cube (or a bit more) of galangal (also known as blue ginger), sliced thinly;
4 tablespoons of good-quality fish sauce;
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice;
a whole piece of chicken breast, cut into smallish bite sized pieces;
half a dozen of shrimps, shells removed and slice-opened at the top;
a piece of large squid, cut thinly;
a bunch of straw mushrooms, sliced into halves;
250-500 ml of coconut milk;
small red Thai chillies, slightly crushed (to taste); and
coriander (cilantro) leaves to garnish.

The number of chillies is a personal choice. It can be as few as three/four to more than a dozen. But the soup should retain a balance of flavours and not be overwhelmed by the chillies.

The broth should be made with fresh chicken. Canned broth finds no place here. Filter it clear, please.

Heat the broth, add the lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, coriander stems, fish sauce, salt and lime juice. Stir thoroughly, bring to a boil, and add the chicken, shrimps, squid, straw mushrooms and coconut milk, then the chillies.

Bring back to the boil, lower the heat to keep it simmering and cook for about 2 minutes (until the chicken, shrimps and squid are cooked through).

Garnish with a generous amount of coriander leaves. Sprinkle some fresh ground pepper.

Tom Kha Gai, Not Quite a Minimalist Soup

Not really intended to be eaten as a separate course, I like it served over a bowl of steamed jasmine rice. But, that night, we were served with salad and bread.

What a night! What a beautiful festive night!



Anonymous sis said...

haha.. surprised we appeared in your blog! it was indeed a fantastic nite! thank you so much for preparing so delicious food for us! salute to you, chef!
so it's our turn to serve you la, brother! :)

let's drink sake next time. hehe...

12:59 AM GMT+8  
Blogger GM5 said...

Look really good wor.

8:57 AM GMT+8  
Blogger kEV said...

Thank you, sister! Thank you, Jeh Jeh!

Jeh Jeh, I'll make you this soup. I promise!

12:41 AM GMT+8  
Blogger GM5 said...

Thank you, kEV Suk Suk!

10:53 AM GMT+8  
Blogger kEV said...

GM5 Jeh Jeh, I'm afraid you are just a little too classy to be my niece. :P

2:35 PM GMT+8  
Blogger GM5 said...

haha .. I like this adjective. :p

4:33 PM GMT+8  
Blogger kEV said...

of coz, it takes a lot of classiness to be my sister. ;)

6:18 PM GMT+8  
Blogger GM5 said...

I have added your recipe to wikipedia. See below.

11:55 AM GMT+8  
Blogger kEV said...

WOW!!! I am a wiki celebrity!

Fame, fortune, are they all coming now?

Thank you, Jeh Jeh!

2:02 PM GMT+8  
Blogger GM5 said...

Yeah, you're very classy now. :P

6:22 PM GMT+8  

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