Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup): Version Two

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So, you’ve toiled laboriously and made a too-good-for-words chili sauce for version one of the tom kha gai I take it, right? Now try this version of tom kha gai, adapted from Night + Market, where I go off recipe to employ an easier (albeit less authentic) way to produce a just-as-delicious-but-tastes-a-little-different soup.

Don’t be deterred; this version takes less than half the time as the original to produce results.

Tom kha gai - version two


1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and root trimmed
3 cups chicken broth
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 1/2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup oyster mushrooms, torn into pieces
3/4 pound chicken thighs
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons jarred Thai-style chili sauce
2 teaspoons chili oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh bird’s eye chilis
4 tablespoons lime juice
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. Mince 1 tablespoon of the lemongrass and set the rest of the lemongrass aside. Place the chicken in a bowl, add the garlic, minced lemongrass, a pinch of salt and pepper, and enough cold water to just cover the chicken. Mix and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove from brine and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. In the meantime, carefully bruise the remaining lemongrass with a heavy object, then slice the stalk crosswise at an angle into 2-inch lengths.

3. In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups water and the chicken broth to a boil. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, and bouillon cube, stirring until dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, mushrooms, and chicken and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the chicken is cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chili sauce, chili oil, and lime juice and remove from the heat.

5. Serve hot in individual bowls and garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup): Version One

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Ever try two different recipes for the same dish and they’re both really, really good? But really, really different?

I love tom kha gai, or Thai lemongrass and coconut chicken soup, and I’ve tried my hand at two different versions. Inspired by my travels to Thailand, I typically hand-make my own nam prik-esque chili sauce for this soup, which I’m including here. But I have another version of this soup that uses an uh, not so traditional route. I’ll include that in the next update.

Try both out and decide for yourself: which version is tastier? I know I can’t decide.

tom kha gai


1/2 cup Thai dried red chiles
1/3 cup cup shallots, unpeeled
1/3 cup garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup fish sauce
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoons brown sugar
2 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, inner white part only, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced 1
/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Thai chiles, seeded and very thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. To make the nam prik: Place a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add the chiles, and dry-roast them, moving them around as necessary to prevent them from burning. After about 3 or 4 minutes, they’ll darken and become brittle. Remove from the skillet and set aside to cool.

2. In the meantime, slice the unpeeled shallots lengthwise in half. In the same skillet over medium heat, all the shallots and garlic and dry-roast until browned on one side; turn over and dry-roast on the other side. When they’re softened and roasted. about 8 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Break off the chili stems and discard them, then break up the chiles and place in a food processor. Peel the shallots and garlic and add to the food processor. Process to a smooth paste.

4. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and then add the paste. Stir the paste as it heats in the oil and absorbs it. After about 5 minutes, it will have darkened slightly and give off a warm, roasted chili aroma. Remove from the heat, stir in one teaspoon of the fish sauce, and let cool to room temperature.

5. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the remaining 1/4 cup fish sauce.

6. In a large saucepan, combine the stock with the 3 tablespoons of the nam prik chili paste, sugar, lime leaves and lemongrass and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Add the chicken and fish sauce to the saucepan along with the shiitakes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms are tender, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the lime leaves. Stir in the lime juice and chiles. Ladle the soup into bowls, with the cilantro and serve.

Gai Pad Krapow

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Gai pad krapow is one of my favorite Thai dishes but it wasn’t until I visited Bangkok a couple of years ago that I tried it with long beans mixed into the savory, spicy minced chicken. I was won over, and ever since then, I make it like this at home too.

Serve it with a fried egg on top alongside rice for some extra oomph.

gai pad krapow


3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground chicken
2 birds eye chiles, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup cut long beans
1 teaspoon Thai seasoning sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup Thai basil leaves
4 eggs, fried or sunny side up
Pepper, to taste

1. Heat a wok over high heat and then add the oil. Add the ground chicken and stir-fry until cooked, about three minutes. Add the chiles, garlic, and sugar, stirring to coat. Add the long beans, Thai seasoning sauce, oyster sauce, and fish sauce and stir-fry for another three minutes. The chicken should be cooked and the long beans should be tender-crisp.

2. Remove from the heat, add the basil, pepper, and stir to combine. Transfer to a serving plate and serve alongside steamed rice and fried eggs.

Steamed Eggplant with Chili Sauce

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I love eggplant but I hate frying them but I love their buttery texture when they’re fried. First world problems, amirite? I’ve tried grilling, I’ve tried baking, I’ve tried broiling eggplant to recreate that fried buttery texture, but to no avail.

Until I tried steaming them.

Whatever magical alchemy is happening under the steamer results in a smooth, creamy texture reminiscent of fried eggplant but without, you know, gobs of oil. This simple dish is enlivened with a fiery chili sauce and pairs perfectly with some jasmine rice.

Steamed eggplant with chili sauce


4 Asian eggplants
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon black Chinese vinegar (or substitute with balsamic vinegar)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chili oil with chili flakes
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Trim the eggplants, cut them in half lengthwise, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Leave for at least half an hour to draw out the bitter juices.

2. Steam the eggplants over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until tender, preferably in a bamboo steamer fitted over a wok. Leave to cool and then cut into 3-inch pieces.

3. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Mix in the oils and pour the sauce over the eggplant on a serving platter.

Tomato Curry

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What do you do when you have too many tomatoes? Make tomato curry. This summertime curry is my new surprise favorite — I had an excessive tomato haul and wanted to try something different than salad or tomato sauce. Spicy and savory and slightly sweet from ripened tomatoes’ natural sugars, this whole thing comes together in only a few minutes and is finished with a touch of creamy coconut milk.

If you never thought tomatoes could be the star ingredient in a curry, try this and see if you don’t change your mind. It’s perfect alongside heftier curry, some rice, and pickled things to make a perfect meal.

Tomato curry


2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped
1 pound tomatoes, quartered
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Maldive fish

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add fenugreek, mustard seeds, curry leaves, cinnamon, onion, serrano chili, and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, salt, and Maldive fish and cook for another minute, being careful to not burn the mixture.

2. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 7 minutes, until they have softened. Add coconut milk and water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the liquid thickens.

3. Serve as a side curry to a main vegetable, fish, or meat curry alongside rice.