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Thai Coconut Turkey Soup

Thai Coconut Turkey Soup

This year I am planning to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey in this recipe for Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (known in Thai cooking as Thai Tom Kha Gai).  This velvety soup is not as spicy as other Thai foods and my recipe makes it lighter by using water and chicken broth instead of predominantly coconut milk.

You will most likely need to make a trip to an Asian grocery store for some of the ingredients, unless you are fortunate and your regular one stocks them.  Here’s a run down on the ingredients.

Galangal resembles ginger and has a distinct floral ginger scent.  It is hard and dense and is typically sliced into thin crosswise pieces.  Fresh peeled ginger can be substituted for it.

Lemongrass looks like large, pale, woody green onions and has a distinct lemony flavor.  Use only the bottom six inches of the stem because the top is tough and stringy.  Lightly crushing the stalk releases more flavor when it’s cooked.  There is no substitute.

Kaffir lime leaves, from the kaffir tree, infuse lemon-lime flavor.  By making slight tears in the leaves before putting them in the soup, you infuse more flavor.  When you buy them, some of the leaves will be attached in doubles.  Separate them and count them individually. Again, there is no substitute.

Straw mushrooms are grown and used extensively in Asia where they are available fresh.  They are available canned in our country.

And finally fish sauce made from fermented fish – so essential to add a necessary depth of flavor and saltiness.

To make the soup a bit more filling, you can put a spoonful of cooked white or brown rice right in the bowl.

Thai Coconut Turkey Soup (Tom Kha Gai)
Makes 4 servings (6 cups)

*Vegetarian option below

2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1-1/2 inch piece of galangal or 1 inch piece peeled fresh ginger (see note)
2 stalks lemongrass, (see note)
5 Kaffir lime leaves(see note)
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk or light coconut milk
2 cups sliced or shredded cooked turkey
1 can (15 ounces) straw mushrooms, drained (see note)
2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
2 tablespoons seeded and chopped serrano chiles (2 chiles)
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups cooked white or brown rice, optional

For the galangal, slice into thin slices.

For the lemongrass, use the bottom 6 inches of the stalk; peel off any outer tough leaves and trim the root end.  Lightly smash the stalk with the side of a knife to break open; cut into 1-inch pieces.

Make a few tears in each kaffir lime leaf (this helps open the flavor when cooking.)

Bring chicken broth, water, galangal, lemongrass and kaffir limes leaves to a boil in a medium size stockpot; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes; strain and discard galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.

Over low to medium heat, stir in coconut milk and bring just to a simmer; add turkey, mushrooms and fish sauce and cook 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in serranos, lime juice and cilantro, adding more of each to your liking; the soup should have a balance of spicy, sweet, salty and sour flavors.

Galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and canned straw mushrooms are available at many Asian grocery stores.

*Vegetarian Option: Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth and 2 cups chopped tofu for the turkey.


Linda Augustine Linda Burner Augustine is a freelance recipe developer, food writer and cooking teacher who lives in Seattle with her husband and two children. She is passionate about inspiring people to cook dinner and eat together and her blog AYearAtTheTable.com features main dish dinner recipes.