At Last, Competition


Until this weekend, Lamb Tagine filled the kitchen with the most magnificent aroma ever.  It was narcotic.  Suddenly, tough, a new contender appeared yesterday, meaning to take the title all for itself.  Tom Kha Gai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup) just might do it too, loaded with enough beautiful aromatics to rocket it to the top.

Here are some of the ingredients that gave everything so that noses, and later taste buds, could lose themselves in ecstasy:Aromatics

These items have the looks – they’re stunning, actually – though they also have quality deep-down that makes the difference.  Lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves offer complimentary citrus essences. both with lingering floral notes.  Ginger introduces a strong element of peppery sweetness, while cilantro balances it with cool freshness.

Above all, a generous helping of coconut milk bathes all in a creamy sweetness that must be what it’s like to drink silk.  And so on, and so on…  The foregoing describes what each item offers on its own, which individually form a sublime litany, though taken together…  One moment, please…

Bon Appetit listed instructions in its September 2013 number, and even then, sight unseen and aroma unimagined, it made “The List.”  If only there were a hint, though, of what tantalizing sensations awaited, it certainly wouldn’t have taken six years to try the recipe!  In fact, this journal may have gotten underway years sooner than it did.

Yes, Tom Kha Gai is that good, that amazing.  Enough to take the reining champ down a spot, at least as far as nasal intoxication goes.  Not only that, but it follows through on taste too.  Time to rework the rankings.

*****

Tom Kha Gai

(Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layer removed
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves (*1)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 13.5-ounce can of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (*2)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped, optional (*3)
  • lime wedges and chili sauce (*4), for garnish

Using the back of a knife, lightly bruise the lemongrass and the ginger, to encourage them to release their oils.  Cut the lemongrass into 4-inch lengths and add it, the ginger and lime leaves to a large saucepan holding the chicken stock.  Set the saucepan over a medium-high flame and bring its contents to a boil.

Reduce the flame to medium-low and simmer for about ten minutes, until the flavors blend.  Turn off the flame and strain the broth through a cheesecloth and discard the solids.  Return the strained sauce to the saucepan and reignite the flame to medium-high.

Add the chicken and return broth to a boil.  Reduce flame to medium-low and add the mushrooms.  Simmer for twenty minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the cilantro, if using, the coconut milk, the fish sauce and the sugar.  Stir weill.

Divide the soup among bowls and serve alongside lime wedges and chili sauce.

NOTES:

1 – If you can’t find kaffir lime leaves, use a tablespoon of lime zest and a quarter-cup of lime juice.

2 – I still have some palm sugar from previous recipes, so why not?  If you don’t have palm sugar, try a teaspoon of brown sugar for a slightly more “authentic” taste than you’d get from granulated sugar.  We’re only talking a teaspoon’s-worth, though, so even granulated still does the job.

3 – In the original recipe, cilantro is used only sparingly, as a garnish.  However, as you can see, I used a bit more, as in a whole bunch.  It added a nice fresh taste, and the color is pretty nice too.

4 –Though “regular” chili sauce was on hand, the sweet variety was a great companion, both in terms of taste and texture.

 

 

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36 thoughts on “At Last, Competition

      1. So, that was it after all?

        Okay, I found a penny on my doorstep this morning, so now you have twenty-six cents. If we keep going like this, you’ll have “means” before you know it.

        I hope you won’t forget about me when your yacht bobs atop Long Island Sound’s glistening surface..

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I absolutely love Thai food and they never have a qualm to leave out the meat for me 🙂

    But it all has to be chopped into bite size pieces because knives are not laid on the table … only forks and spoons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thoughtful cooks will have done so without you having to ask.

      That’s something of a calling card for East Asian cooks, a consideration for the diner. After all, their cuisine should inspire appreciation, and not require additional dissection!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Finding a large Asian market local to me is one of the things that has really helped to bring some new and wonderful flavors to my kitchen. (I live in semi-rural central Connecticut, not a large metro center… the urban folks don’t get all the fun!) I highly recommend exploring to find these local gems because ingredients like lime leaves and lemongrass bring dishes to new culinary heights. This dish will definitely fill the home with mouth-watering aromas 😍 It’s worth the effort!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it, though, Summer?

      Major cheers to you for overcoming a lack of immediate resources to acquire dining bliss. You trek to culinary nirvana, Grasshopper. From nothing you spin wonders. Brava!

      My suburb’s healthy Chinese-American population means we’re graced with a small-ish East Asian supermarket. Great for the staples, but sometimes a visit to amazon.com still is in order. Particularly so when the kitchen visits Persia, Morocco. Spain, Colombia, etc., etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, mine too! Unless you happen to live on the Lower East Side, and within walking distance of every obscure ingredient imaginable, amazon saves the day (yet again).

        For that matter, from twenty-plus years ago backward, the only way to satisfy yourself on a daunting question was A) to go to the library and try to find a book containing the information, or B) to ask the neighborhood Cliff Claven – assuming, that is, your neighborhood had one.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You too, Jenn!

      Of course, your own blog proves it’s Halloween just about any time of the year. Meaning, you make the chilling and mysterious a whisper from the shadows…always.

      Likewise, while this recipe definitely warms the kitchen amidst the swirling gales, it does hail from Thailand, a tropical realm or perpetual summer. Therefore, maybe it hits the spot in July too.

      Looking out the window now to snow flurries. Let’s keep talking about July, OK?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yum yum! One of my favourite dishes. This new year’s wish comes with an appreciation for all you do, for your thoughtfulness and unselfish ways, for your post that you give us every day. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Kally! Quite touching actually.

      Don’t let me give you the wrong idea, though. Laziness motivates me more than does anything else. Namely, on Monday mornings, when colleagues ask, “So, what did you do this weekend?” all I have to do is point to the blog. Saves me a bunch of, you know, talking and such.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Obviously, then, Kally, you still have an entire hemisphere to conquer. You’ve done really well on this side of the globe; just think of the laurels you’ll gather closer to home!

        When you return to the office and someone asks, “Kally, how was your weekend?” point him/her to the blog. Seriously, word will spread quickly, as one friend tells another…and another. You accomplished the hard part first, gaining acclaim among “strangers.” Now’s harvest time for personal friends and family.

        Just think of how cool it’ll be when your friends tell you, “Kally, you know so much about this. Honestly, I had no idea!”

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, Crystal, a more interesting question is, how did you happen upon it? For one thing, it was published months ago, back before there even was an internet, I think. Plus, navigating my site is equally primitive. I pray you don’t dig much more, as the earliest entries are humiliating, in terms of photography (bad), staging (non-existent) and writing (poor). Been at this since 2016, and those years have brought improvement. Definitely, improvement.

      One thing I do remember, though, is that the aromatics lived up to their potential, and then some. Those flavors too! Did the aroma make the taste explosive, or vice-versa? Yes.

      Like

      1. Well, yes!

        Each time you visit, I try to return the favor. Thanks for entertaining me with the banter. We’re all growing our crafts here. Tonight I’m finding WP glitchy and frustrating. I hope tomorrow I find improvement.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, checking out your site generates a return visit? Quickly then, I’ve got to stop by your blog about 1,001 times, because I do so enjoy your comments, Crystal!

        WP has been good to me, hand on heart, though many of my new friends have complained about their experiences. Few other means to compare, as this is my first time blogging. I really am Unfrozen Caveman Blogger here, wondering if demons got inside my replies and made them disappear. No, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just incompetent.

        Like

      3. Wonderful, Crystal. I appreciate your regard.

        You aren’t kidding about the crab cakes. Score one for the cuisine of Bawlmer, Merlin (Baltimore, Maryland), which apparently is how you’re supposed to pronounce it when you’re within sight of the Chesapeake.

        Like

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