Friday, November 30, 2012

Thai Tom Kha Soup with Noodle - a quick weeknight meal

I have been thinking of sharing with you some Thai food recipes but it was difficult to make my mind up of which dish to go first. A perfect reason to keep postponing, isn't it? 
Just until recently I was asked by a lady whether I mind sharing with her some Thai food recipe. Of course not. I'm more than happy to share a few. So now the time has come to select one, here we go. Thai food is neither easy nor difficult to make. Some are easier to make than other yet equally tasty. Here, I will start with not just any dish, but my all time favorite Thai soup called Tom Kha.

Tom Kha is a simple yet flavorful herbs infused coconut soup which I find it is very easy to make. Those herbs we are talking about here are galangal ( Kha ), lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. The soup is seasoned with lime juice, fish sauce, bird's eye chilies and palm sugar. The fresh herbs required for this soup are easily to be found in most of supermarket in Singapore. They comes pre-packed, called Thai Tom Yum Soup set.

Which type of meat goes in the soup then? The traditional Tom Kha soup was made with chicken ( Gai ). So the soup is called Tom Kha Gai. The best is to use bone-in and skin on piece of chicken. When they are simmered in soup until soft the chicken adds this wonderful rich flavor into the soup.

One more ingredient that often used in the soup is mushroom. I like the soup with the oyster mushroom but you could probably use any mushroom except Shiitake and any kind of dried mushroom. Those types of mushroom has very strong flavor which will overpower delicate herbs taste and fragrance in the soup. Avoid using Portobello if possible as they tend to turn the broth into muddy color.

Although this dish is a soup base, it is not to be eaten as a stand alone soup dish like in Western cuisine. In Thailand, Tom Kha soup normally served with rice as an Entree and to be consumed along with other main dishes. The recipe below however, I modified it by replacing chicken with Salmon fillet and for it to be quick to make for weeknight meal, I introduced noodles in replacing of rice.

Thai Tom Kha Soup with noodle

Bruise lemongrass stalk to release the fragrance
Thai Tom Kha Soup with Noodle
makes 4 servings

4 packs rice noodles. Similar kind that used for Pad Thai
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups water or a good fish stock
2 cups coconut milk
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut into 1-inch pieces
4-5 fresh kaffir lime leaves, stem removed
3" fresh galangal, thinly sliced
250 grams fresh skin-on salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces
12-15 medium size oyster mushroom, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-5 bird's eye chili, slightly crushed
3-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
fish sauce to taste
palm sugar to taste
3 spring fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

cooked thin rice noodle
- Cook noodle in boiling water for couple minutes until the noodles is cooked. Rinse them with cold water. Drain then add some vegetable oil to prevent the noodle from sticking together. Set aside. Discard the boiled water.
- Bring 3 cups of water to boil then low the heat to barely simmer.
- Add lemongrass, galanga, kaffir lime leaves and let simmer until fragrance. About 3-5 minutes.
- Add coconut milk. Keep the heat at around 160-180 then add salmon. Poach the fish until they turn opaque and cooked.
- Add mushroom and chilies. Start with 3 chilies. Then you can add more as needed to meet your preferred spicy level. Let it simmer for couple more minutes.
simmer to infuse water with herbs
- Add lime juice to taste. Start with 2 tablespoons first then you can always add more if you like it a little more sour.
- If you use water you will need to add some fish sauce. If stock is used, be careful not to add too much fish sauce as the stock is typically already salty.  The soup should taste balance of salty and sour. Palm sugar can be added to help rounding the taste. 
At this seasoning step, it is important that you add small amount at a time and always taste your soup before adding any more lime or fish sauce. Because once you have too much of these two tastes in the soup, it is not easy to fix.
- Last, turn off the heat then stir in chopped cilantro.
- Divide noodle equally into 4 noodle bowls. Pour Tom Kha soup over noodle, sprinkle some more chopped cilantro on top and serve immediately.

Once again, you can always turn this recipe back to its original Tom Kha Gai by using bone-in chicken. If you would prefer boneless chicken, I recommend using thigh instead of breast. Then replace 3 cups of water called in the ingredients list with chicken stock. Prefer the no salt added kind. Also you could rice instead of noodle.

Enjoy. Let me know what you think.

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