A few years ago one of my mother’s friends came over to teach us how to cook some delicious and authentic Thai food. She showed us how to make a sweet and vibrant mango salad, a wonderfully spicy Thai Curry, and finally, what became my personal favorite—a classic Tom Kha Gai soup.
I’ve always found Thai food so intriguing for its innovative use of diverse ingredients, with many of which I’d otherwise be pretty unfamiliar. And as I thought about this wonderful Tom Kha Gai I had just a few years back, I knew I wanted to make my own Thai-inspired soup using ingredients that could expand my creativity.
My basic trajectory was pretty simple: make a tasty soup that was true to the traditional process but which also took the dish in a new direction. So while the initial soup usually included chicken and mushrooms, I decided to incorporate other fresh and original ingredients like rice noodles, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Two of the most unique elements in this recipe are kaffir lime leaves and galangal. Kaffir lime leaves, I believe, are one of the key reasons as to why this soup tastes so good. They exude a powerful citrusy fragrance that really add a brightness to this dish. The other unique ingredient you’ll find in this soup is galangal. It has been compared to ginger, and while it bears some similarity it’s also more spicy, with an aromatic piney scent and complex flavor. It helps bring an unfamiliar, exotic spicy layer to the soup that introduces unexpected flavors.
What I love most about using unique ingredients like these is that I get to go out and visit new markets. While most of the components for this soup can be found at your local store, I did have to venture out to a new Asian market for these two ingredients. Being in a new market is always a fun experience for me. I mean, being surrounded by new produce pushes me into foreign but exciting exciting territory. So if you find yourself on the hunt for these ingredients, try to find a local Asian market and take a trip—you won’t regret it! I encourage you to call ahead if possible, but if you can't just get out there and see what you find. These ingredients really make a difference in this soup, so the extra trip will be worth it.
Knowing that I wanted to pair this soup with a great drink, I found La Crema’s 2015 Monterey Pinot Gris to be pretty perfect. It has a citrus blast at the beginning which settles down into a melon-like sweetness. This seriously enhances the whole experience and makes for a pleasant pairing. For the whole soup recipe, be sure to check out La Crema’s blog.
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