Let’s be honest: The winters in Carolina don’t often get too severe, so as far as winter dishes go, you’ll get more mileage out of a hearty recipe that you can still enjoy in the spring or summer. Tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) fits this description to a T. A traditional Thai soup made with coconut milk and chicken, paired with salapao (Thai steamed buns) it makes a satisfyingly filling winter meal you can still eat when you feel the sun on your face.
This recipe might seem like a daunting time commitment, but most of it is inactive. Just set the broth to cook while you work on something else.
Tom Kha Gai
1 T vegetable oil
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled
1 large stalk lemongrass (or two small)
2 birds eye chilies (or other hot pepper)
Zest of one lime, cut into strips
4 lb. whole chicken
2 T fish sauce, divided
Juice of one lime, divided
6 cups water
3 slices of dried galangal
10 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 bunches oyster mushrooms
1 can of coconut milk
- Heat vegetable oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Slice ginger and chilies into thin strips. Bruise the lemongrass and tie it in a knot. Add all of these and lime zest to the pot.
- Split the chicken in half along its breastbone. After sweating the aromatics, push them to the side and add both halves of the chicken, skin down. Increase heat to medium-high and drizzle the chicken with 1 tbsp. of fish sauce and the juice of half a lime.
- After the chicken browns and releases from the bottom of the pot (1-2 minutes), flip it and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Cover the chicken with six cups of water. Add dried galangal and bring to a slow simmer. Reduce to a low heat and cover.
- After 45 minutes, flip the chicken and continue to simmer. Cook until the chicken can be pulled off the bone with gentle pressure, another 45 minutes to an hour.
- Remove the chicken and add shiitake mushrooms and a tsp. of fish sauce to the broth. Continue to simmer, covered.
- After the chicken has cooled, remove the bones and tear the chicken into chunks. Return the bones to the broth and simmer for another hour. Strain the solids out of the broth, reserving the mushrooms. After cooling, strained broth can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
- Heat broth to a simmer uncovered. Slice and add mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add coconut milk and chicken. Cook until heated through.
- Adjust seasoning with fish sauce and lime juice to taste. Depending on how much of the broth has evaporated, you should need around 1 more tsp. of fish sauce and about ¼ of the lime juice
- Serve with lime wedges, chili oil and salapao.
1 cup lukewarm water
3 T sugar
1 package (2 ¼ tsp) dry yeast
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 T vegetable oil
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
- Combine water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Add flour, vegetable oil and salt. Knead together until smooth.
- Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled in volume, about one hour.
- Knead the baking powder into the dough and separate into 10 balls of dough. Let rest 5 minutes.
- After resting, roll the dough balls into 5-inch circles and put a little bit of the chicken and mushrooms from the soup in the center. Pinch the perimeter of the circle together above the filling and twist.
- To cook, spread out in a steam basket on top of bits of wax or parchment paper. Steam above boiling water with a lid until set: 10-15 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving.
- Optional: If you’re a fan of fried dumplings, you can briefly fry these on one side in shallow oil after steaming for a Shanghai-influenced salapao.