Posh Tom Kha

We were doing some holiday planning for later in the year and the conversation turned, as it so often does, to memories of other holidays – and specifically, the time we spent in Kamala at Phuket on our way back from the UK a few years ago.

Me: ‘Remember that Tom Kha Gai that I used to have on the beach at lunchtime?’

Hubby: ‘It was nice but had too many bits in it.’

Ms T: ‘It’s like that soup they pour out of a teapot at Spirit House.’ We all paused as we remembered the refined yet zesty soup poured over tiny little pieces of salmon in the base of tiny little cups. ‘If we’re having Thai can you make that?’

Sure. How hard can it be?

At its heart, the soup we all remembered with reverence at The Spirit House – a fabulous Thai style restaurant in Yandina, here on the Sunshine Coast – is a poshed up version of Tom Kha Gai or Chicken Galangal Soup.

This creamy coconut soup is full of flavours like galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime that take me right back to that beach in Kamala, but has had, what my husband calls, the bits removed to make it smooth and silky.

Instead of chicken, I got some hot-smoked salmon from one of the stalls at our local Farmer’s Market. She sells the offcuts – the pieces that don’t square off nicely – in little bags. It’s much more cost effective than buying a large fillet when all you need is a few small pieces flaked off into the bottom of the bowl. The salmon I got was hot smoked with Thai flavours, but this would work with plain smoked salmon as well.

This recipe serves 4 and we had some leftover soup which we poured over noodles the following day. Yum!

Oh, a note on the photos – each of these were taken in Phuket…

What you need…

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 stalks lemongrass – chopped roughly, the tough outer leaves removed
  • 6 pairs kaffir lime leaves
  • A thumb sized piece of galangal, roughly sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger, roughly sliced
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chilli paste – I used sambal oelek which isn’t strictly traditional but works and gives the final result a lovely colour that you otherwise wouldn’t get
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • about 150g smoked salmon flaked into small pieces

What you do with it

Put stock, lemongrass, ginger, galangal and kaffir lime leaves into a large saucepan. Bring it to the boil, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, chilli paste, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice and simmer for a further minute or so. Have a taste and adjust seasoning ie chilli paste, fish sauce, palm sugar or lime juice as required.

Place the salmon pieces at the base of your soup bowls.

Strain the soup into a jug and pour over the salmon and serve. If you want you can garnish with a few coriander leaves or a few drops of chilli oil.

To make a more traditional style Tom Kha Gai…

You’ll need to take a little more care with the chopping and slicing of your lemongrass, galangal and ginger, but you don’t need to bother straining the soup. Instead, add 300g thinly sliced chicken meat and 12g sliced mushrooms and simmer again until the chicken is cooked – about 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with coriander and a couple of seeded and sliced red chillies. This soup is often served with halved cherry tomatoes as well.



Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

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