I’ve Got a Cold Only Tom Kha Gai Can Cure

If you are seeing a picture of tom kha gai then it is safe to assume that I feel like crap.

Sometimes you just don’t need a recipe to know what your body craves. This is one of those days, because I have a bad cold. One of those I don’t want to do anything at all kind of colds.

I have been battling it for 5 days. It started typically enough with a scratchy throat. By the next day I had a stuffy nose, but no fever. In fact if it weren’t for the stuffy nose I would have said I felt just fine. I had just about convinced myself that it was not a cold at all, just a mild allergy flair up.

But, alas sometime in the night these sniffles moved into my chest and sat down with a great heavy thud! My chest is so congested that it actually feels as if a great big bear is sitting on it while sticking a long feather down my throat. Tickling away for his own amusement. The tickle leads to a cough, the cough leads to hack and the hack brings up some of the nastiest stuff you’d ever want to see.

Tom Kha Gai

I used to think that the only thing for a cold was hot tea and toast. But I have learned there is another sort of relief and I have come to swear by it. If you live in Los Angeles long enough, you find that you shed your old skin and develop all sorts of new habits. The simple, comforting and spicy Thai soup known as Tom kha gai or Tom kha kai is one of those skins you develop. One of those adopted experiences that become completely your own. So now whenever I have a cold, it’s this soup and this soup alone that makes me feel better.

God Bless the thriving Thai community in Los Angeles.

Tom Kha Gai- Thai Chicken Soup in Coconut Milk Broth serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1 q chicken stock
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white & pale green parts only, cut on the diagonol into 1‑inch pieces
  • 3 thai chilies, thinly sliced
  • 2 clv garlic, crushed
  • 3 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 3‑inch pieces ginger, peeled and cut into 1/2‑inch chunks
  • 1 (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 T asian fish sauce
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 (8‑ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed
  • 5 limes, juice only
  • 2 c boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1‑inch chuncks
  • 3 long beans, chopped into 1‑inch pieces
  • 1 pn each salt and pepper
  • 1 t thai curry paste
  • 1/4 c thai basil, leaves only optional
  • 1/4 c cilantro, leaves only optional

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat bring the chicken stock to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, chilies, and garlic. Simmer for 10 minutes to let the spices infuse the broth.

Uncover and stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, mushrooms, lime juice, long bean pieces, and chicken pieces. Simmer for 8 minutes to cook the chicken through; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the Thai curry paste and add basil and cilantro leaves if using. Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl or individual serving bowls.

Tom Kha Gai



Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining for The Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in PanamaCosta Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network.