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Thai chicken coconut soup for the first chill of autumn

Wait “Autumn”, Summer is not over yet !

Today morning when I woke up to a bright sunny day, I felt a nip in the air when I opened the windows. It was so unmistakably autumn. The sounds of autumn were so pronounced, the hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown away by a gusty wind. The sky was painted in brilliant shades of blue but there was a slight chill in the wind.  I had no clue when the flowering dogwood tree underneath my window has changed its color to light pink, leaves are turning brown, seasons are changing, so silently that it goes unnoticed until the whole tree turns into vibrant hue of yellow and red foliage. Two days back the Autumn equinox has started, but nature moves at its own space and time.

tom kha kai

Change of seasons brings fresh produce on the table, cute basketsl of berries are now replaced with big and chunky squashes, another season of Fall, and reasons to devour the pumpkin pies.

Lemonades and Margaritas, you can now hide yourself . Time to have some warm and comfort soups.

Beautiful soups , hearty soups, so creamy and full of flavour, like this Thai Tom Kha Kai / Gai . A Thai chicken (kai /gai)  soup infused with fresh lemongrass, galangal (kha) and kaffir lime leaves.

My love for Thai cuisine keeps growing strong, ever since I first started making Thai food at home. From my weeklong stay at Thailand, nearly 4 years back, I have brought many dried foods, spices and condiments back to my country. And my curries tasted better and richer, full with authentic flavours.

chicken coconut soup

I was so thrilled to discover an oriental grocer in my local neighbourhood, in North Carolina, who stocks foods from all  South Asian countries. Even those beautifully scented pandan leaves, but to my dismay I could not find any kaffir lime leaves. That was the saddest part of my little kitchen adventure and hence I was forced to replace it with Thai basil.

Kaffir lime leaves can not be substituted with any other lime leaves. I wont argue on that.

So if you are blindly in love with Tom Kha Kai and cannot accept basil for kaffir lime leaves, then please look elsewhere, this version of mine may sound almost scandalous to you .

However,  on an optimistic note Thai basil brings some fresh perspective in this coconut chicken soup.  The most celebrated Thai dish outside Thailand and most loved and popular Thai soup. Tom kha kai is the most soul-stirring soup I have ever come acrossed.

Thai chicken coconut soup

Thai chicken coconut soup for the first chill of autumn
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Tom Kha Kai or Thai chicken coconut soup infused with fresh lemongrass, thin slices of galangal, few drops of fish sauce and only if I could add kaffir lime leaves. However Thai basil adds a different flavour to the dish.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 2
  • Chicken stock ( I use homemade stocks) : 1½ cup
  • Boneless chicken pieces (breast or tenderloin) : 1 cup
  • Fresh Lemongrass : 1 stalk
  • Fresh Galangal : 1 inch piece thinly sliced
  • Fish Sauce : 1 tbsp
  • Thai bird's eye chili : 3-4 fresh red color
  • Lime : 1
  • Coconut milk : ½ cup
  • Thai basil leaves : 1 sprig
  • Use Kaffir lime leaves if you can find it.
  1. Heat the chicken stock and reduce it slightly. I prefer homemade chicken stocks made from bone in chicken pieces with a pinch of salt.
  2. Only the white portion of lemon grass is usable. Smash the white portion of lemon grass, and scrape the inner white fleshy part and put it into the chicken stock pot.
  3. This will help to release the flavour. You can also put the outer thick hard part of lemon grass too in the stock pot for extra flavourings.
  4. Crushed the galangal a bit and add it to the chicken stock.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and bring the whole thing to a gentle boil.
  6. Simmer and cover till the chicken is partially cooked through.
  7. Add the coconut milk, followed by fish sauce, bird chillies (slit them or smash them), and juice of one lime.
  8. Simmer on low heat till the chicken is well cooked.
  9. Remove immediately and check for the seasonings.
  10. A few more drops of fish sauce may be required to get the flavours right.
  11. If you want it to make more spicy, you can sprinkle few more bird chillies over the soup.
  12. Stir in the kaffir lime leaves or Thai basil leaves, close the lid and let it remain sit for few minutes.
  13. Serve it with steamed rice.

Tom kha kai / gai is very light refreshing broth kind soup, full of flavours with hint of lime and undertone of heat from Thai bird chillies. It is all about achieving a balance and none of the flavours should overpowers another one.

If you are a novice in Thai kitchen, here is a beautiful tutorial on Thai food by SheSimmers.

Until next



  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 11:02 am

    The soup does look so so good sans the kaffir leaves too. I would love to spoon it over my rice on a beautiful cold day, perfect.

  • Reply
    Kumar's Kitchen
    September 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Such an elegant and soul warming way of welcoming Autumn ….Love how it is time to savor all kinds of warm soups ans stews…Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  • Reply
    September 27, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Soup looks so good and colourfull.

  • Reply
    helene dsouza
    September 28, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Oh this looks fantastic! You know, I have discovered thai food recently for myself. I have never been to Thailand although it’s not that far from India. I wish I knew what Galangal tastes like, I heard it’s like ginger. Any idea if I can substitute kaffir lime for something else. Otherwise I have all ingredients in my garden =)

    • Reply
      September 30, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Thailand is such a fantastic place Helen, and for a foodie it is just a paradise. Ginger is too strong for galangal. Galangal has a very mild flavour to it. I have used basil leaves in the soup, not as a substitute but to give a different flavor to the dish. Kaffir lime leaves are just irreplaceable, even the lime leaves in India are way milder than that. But the soup is exceptionally good and flavourful, so please give it a try, lime or basil anything you love to.


  • Reply
    October 3, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Usually I don’t read the intro and jump to the receipt. But you wrote so beautifuly that I read through the whole story and of course made the soup and eat it while imaging the tree dowm your window turning pink 🙂 Big thank you

    • Reply
      October 5, 2013 at 9:22 pm

      Thank you so much Sheyma for such loving words and appreciate your patience for reading through the entire story :D. being a huge fan of Thai cuisine, this soup is one of my most favourite one. Big thank you to you too for trying it out and letting me know the results. You know such feedbacks encourages a blogger to write better and cook better.


  • Reply
    Suman Arthy
    October 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    wow amazing pics….im sure the taste of the soup will be great

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