Cooking with Aunt Yindee: Tom Kah Gai Soup

In the kitchen with Aunt Yindee yesterday evening, Leah and I were directed through a whirlwind of ingredients and heat as we learned to make six Thai style recipes, all of which drew heavily on local Caribbean produce and fish. As we carefully chopped and sweated away, Yindee bustled about scolding us when our technique was wrong, jokingly telling us that our future mother-in-laws would already have thrown us out if they saw the mistakes we were making! Yindee didn’t follow any recipes or use any real measurements, but she has kindly typed me out the recipes for all the dishes we learned to make. The first I’ll share with you now is Tom Kah Gai Soup. This traditional Thai soup has always been a favorite of mine, ordered and enjoyed in many a Thai restaurant, but I’ve never tasted it quite so good as Yindee’s. Perhaps it was the fresh kaffir lime leaves that we picked from a tree in her yard, or perhaps it was the fresh galanga root that she pulled up that morning from her cousin’s garden… whatever it was, this soup was divine, and I hope that I will now be able to recreate it with equal success. (I also learned that chewing on galanga root will help to calm your stomach.) Fresh tasting while still being soothing warm, this is the kind of soup that will always satisfy that craving for “I want something comforting but not too heavy…”

Tom Kah Gai Soup (Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken and Shrimp) 
serves 6 

3 cups chicken stock
2 cups coconut milk
7 slices of fresh or dry galanga or 1 Tbs galanga powder
1 stalk of lemon grass chopped in1 inch pieces
1 medium onion divided in four and cut in a half
1 small raw chicken breast, sliced into bite-size pieces
6 raw shrimp
7 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tbs finely chopped scallion
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon of lime juice
fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 Tbs fish sauce, 
2-4 chopped fresh red hot pepper
salt, to taste 
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Boil the chicken stock and the coconut milk together in a medium heavy saucepan.
While boiling, add the galanga, lemon grass, and onion.
After 5 minutes, add chicken (piece by piece), shrimp and tomato.
After 10 minutes, add the remaining ingredients, let simmer for another 5 minutes. 
Serve immediately, topped with cilantro