This silky and milky tom kha soup is loaded with aromatic flavors and only takes 17 minutes to make from start to finish. Not too sweet or pungent, this is an authentic Thai recipe that will take you back to your last trip in Southeast Asia!
Finding authentic Thai flavors in America can sometimes be a challenge.
I spent eight years of my life in Asia and I can say that the more pungent the cuisine, the harder it is to find the real thing here. It could be that restaurants are afraid that the western palate can’t handle strong and assertive flavors, so they play it safe by toning down the aromatics and making their dishes sweeter than they need to be.
But what happens when a dish is altered that much is that it ends up being stripped of its heart and soul and all the beautiful memories attached to it.
Authentic Thai Recipe
I’ve stopped looking for authentic Thai food after I learned how to make it at home. And it turns out that it’s much easier than you would think!
Thai cuisine is a lot like Japanese cuisine in that the combination of ingredients used in cooking is often the same. What makes one dish taste different than the other is in the measurements – while one dish requires 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, the other calls for the reverse.
And that’s great news for us home chefs because it means we get to use the ingredients we buy over and over again instead of just once!
Making this tom kha soup is a great introduction to authentic Thai cuisine – the flavors are specific to Southeast Asian cooking without being too funky. But before we get to the cooking part, let’s talk a little about this famous coconut soup!
What Does Tom Kha Mean?
The word tom means boil in Thai and applies for most soup based dishes like tom kha, tom yum and tom som.
The word kha means galangal, a fragrant rhizone from the same family as ginger. While ginger is mostly spicy in flavor, galangal has a strong citrus and floral taste that’s unique in itself.
You might have heard of tom kha gai as well which is the same soup with chicken added to it.
So to solve the riddle – tom kha (ต้มข่า) means boiled galangal and tom kha gai (ต้มข่าไก่) means boiled galangal chicken 😀
Tom Yum VS Tom Kha
Tom yum or tom yam soup is a hot and sour soup made with nam prik pao, a paste consisting of roasted shallots, Thai chilis and garlic, and cooked with water, herbs and vegetables. It’s often served with shrimp (tom yum goong) or chicken (tom yum gai). In Thailand tom yum soup is quite fiery so if you want to taste something close to the real dish, add plenty of chilis to your soup!
Tom kha on the other hand is a sour soup with a coconut milk base. It’s not spicy but contains some of the same aromatic ingredients as tom yum soup (lemongrass, galangal). It can be served with just vegetables or with chicken and/or shrimp.
How To Make Tom Kha Soup
- Add all the ingredients for the soup in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Season to your liking with more sugar or fish sauce and enjoy!
Most Thai Coconut soup preparations will call for the use of chicken (tom kha gai). And, while I do love to have chicken once in a while, I used cauliflower for this my version of tom kha. You can swap the cauliflower for chicken though if you prefer it the other way around – it will be just as good.
There’s a lot going on in this Thai coconut milk soup, lots of depth of flavor!
Galangal (use ginger if you cannot find any), lemongrass and cilantro form an aromatic flavor palate, while the pungent fish sauce and fiery Thai chili create assertive flavors that are only mildly tamed by the understated sweetness of the coconut milk and a dash of sugar.
Isn’t Thai food just amazing? 💕
Thai Coconut Soup Video
Ben and I love this soup so much that we made a recipe video for it to show you how easy it is to make. You can find it at the bottom of this post in the recipe card or watch it here on YouTube.
Is Tom Kha Healthy?
Yes, tom kha is very healthy so long as you stick to light coconut milk and don’t use too much sugar and fish sauce.
The soup is packed with goodness such as fresh lemon juice, lemongrass, galangal, cilantro, mushrooms, and chilies.
What to Serve Thai Coconut Soup With
Since the flavors of tom kha are quite assertive, I like to serve the soup with something mild like a side of jasmine rice. I love to pour a little soup on top of the rice and eat it just like I would for a curry. It also pairs nicely with something simple like a shrimp and cucumber salad or some Thai fish sticks.
Other simple, delicious Thai recipes:
- Thai Green Curry
- Drunken Noodles – Pad Kee Mao
- Thai Basil Chicken
- Classic Pad Thai Noodles
- Mango Sticky Rice
Did you like this Tom Kha Soup Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
Tom Kha Soup (Thai Coconut Soup)
An aromatic Thai coconut soup that will take you back to the streets of Bangkok.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 12 minutes
- Total Time: 17 minutes
- Yield: 4 people 1x
- Category: Soups
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: Thai
- 1 stalk lemongrass (peeled, smashed and finely chopped into rings)
- 1 1-inch piece galangal or fresh ginger (peeled and chopped into thin strips)
- 12 straw mushrooms or 7 button mushrooms, chopped in half
- 2 cups cauliflower (chopped into bite size pieces)
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 fresh Thai chilies (finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped)
- granulated sugar (to taste)
- Put all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is cooked.
- Taste the broth and add about 1/2 teaspoon sugar to sweeten the soup if you find it too acidic or salty. Serve hot.
This Thai coconut soup will keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 90
- Sugar: 3.4 g
- Sodium: 818.2 mg
- Fat: 4.1 g
- Saturated Fat: 3.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 9.6 g
- Fiber: 1.8 g
- Protein: 2.5 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: appetizer, side dish, coconut lemongrass soup, authentic Thai recipe
I am vegan – what can I use in place of fish sauce?
Hi Jackie, you can substitute it with soy sauce although you won’t get the same kind of pungency. Here is a recipe for vegan fish sauce: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-vegan-fish-sauce-130535 If you like Thai and Vietnamese, it might be worth making a bottle of it so you don’t have to look for a substitute every time a recipe calls for fish sauce 🙂