Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Challenge recipe 5: Tom kha gai

I first tried tom kha gai when we were at our little cooking class in Thailand last year holy shit you guys, it was in 2009! o.O Anyway, it was totally delicious, and there's a recipe for it in the cookbook we got as part of the class, so I had every intention of making it when I got home. Only then I got home and couldn't find a key ingredient - galangal. I've been searching for it (to be fair, pretty half heartedly) since November 2009 without success. Until last week - I had a day off work to make cupcakes for Em's hen's weekend and needed to go to the supermarket for a few things. So I took the opportunity to trawl through the Asian supermarkets in search of galangal. And, after THREE supermarkets didn't have it (although one did have something scary called "Instant Jellyfish"...), the fourth had the pickled kind. Which meant I could FIIIIIINALLY make tom kha gai #hellsyeah

Anywho. Here's the book:

And here's what you'll need. It may look complicated, but it's actually surprisingly easy:

Oh, and I should mention, this makes one serve... Start by removing the outer leaves from a stalk of lemongrass, and slicing up about half of it:

Then chop the tops off two small red chillis. Remove the seeds if you don't want it to be as spicy:

Next, peel and slice up the shallot (technically it should be a Thai shallot, but I figure French shallots are basically the same!):

Then break out the galangal - it's a relative of ginger, only different. It's less...intense...than ginger, but looks much the same. You'll need about 5cm:

I rinsed it in some cold water to get rid of some of the saltiness, and then sliced it:

Then slice up a handful of chicken breast. Yes, the recipe actually says a handful. No, I have no idea how much that is either. I used 2/3 of a chicken breast:

Dump coconut milk and water into a saucepan. You need a total of 270mL. The recipe calls for 70mL coconut milk and 200mL water. But if you like it richer, you can reverse the proportions, or use any combination of proportions in between - I did half and half (Oh, also? Apologies for the photos. I only realised last night that the reason I had to use the flash is because I had my ISO set on 200. #fail):

Heat it to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer and add the chicken:

While the chicken's cooking (which should only take a couple of minutes), place a tablespoon of caster sugar in a small bowl:

Add in 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce (the recipe actually calls for fish sauce, but ew):

And 1 tablespoon of lime juice. I love lime juice, so I just made it 1 lime worth of juice. Mix it all together:

Then add the sauce, lemongrass, chillis, shallot and galangal to the saucepan, along with two kaffir lime leaves:

Return to the boil, then pour the whole lot into a bowl, and serve with rice and steamed veggies:

The verdict? I've ordered tom kha gai in restaurants a couple of times seeing as I couldn't find galangal, and it's always contained mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, which just seems kind of weird to me. So to FINALLY be able to make it the way we learnt in Thailand was both ridiculously exciting, and slightly terrifying that it wouldn't live up to my ridiculously high expectations. But it did. It's creamy and spicy and filled with flavour. And it's pretty simple, once you've chopped up all the herbs/spices - I think it only took about 20 minutes to have the whole thing on the table.

To be perfectly honest, it was a bit too spicy for my liking, so I'd probably only use one chilli in the future. But apart from that, it's a magnificent dish and definitely my favourite of the challenge so far. Oh, and the recipe says that you can replace the chicken with a handful of vegetables, so even vegetarians can give it a whirl! Sure, tracking down the galangal might be a bit of a pain, but once you've got it (and I got an enormous jar of the stuff for $2.95!), you can make Thai food to your heart's content!

Give it a go, and let me know what you think :)

K xx

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