I don’t usually publish “rough draft” recipes, but with all the recipe requests after I posted a photo of my vegan Tom Kha, I had to at least get the list of ingredients out. Please keep in mind I did not measure the below ingredients precisely (I tried to guestimate from memory) nor plan on writing out a recipe, so a few tweaks may be needed. Recipes and precise measurements are sometimes necessary for certain recipes, but what I love most about preparing food is individual experimentation and spontaneous creativity. As my mother would say, “You don’t have to be a chef to cook great food!”
I also made a few notes below the directions regarding the ingredients. Have fun with it!
Vegan Tom Kha
- 3.5 ounces sliced mushrooms (i.e. shiitake, oyster, or other Asian variety). White button mushrooms will work in a pinch, but the broth will be less flavorful.
- 2 3” pieces thinly sliced fresh galangal root (Thai ginger)
- 6 2” pieces fresh lemongrass stalk
- 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves (I also added a few pieces of fresh kaffir lime peel, but whole kaffir limes can be harder to find)
- 2-5 finely sliced fresh green Thai chilies, depending on your spice tolerance (I used 5 chilies, but like spice)
- 4 medium shallots, chopped
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 13.5 ounce cans of coconut milk
- 2-3 teaspoons sea salt
- 1-2 tablespoons sweetener (I used a combo of maple syrup and coconut palm sugar)
- 6 1” pieces of frozen pineapple (I learned this flavor and sweetener trick from a food stand in Thailand)
- 7.5 ounces firm cubed tofu
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1 cup chopped cabbage
- 1.5 cups water
- fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
- red chili garlic sauce, Thai red chili sauce or Sriracha
- Cooked brown or jasmine rice
In a medium saucepan and over medium heat, bring one can of coconut milk to a gentle boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low heat, maintaining a light bubbling of the coconut milk for 2-3 minutes. This brings out the sweet fragrance of the coconut milk. Add the mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, green Thai chilies, shallots, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a gentle boil and continue to simmer on medium-low heat for 15-30 minutes. The longer you can simmer the mixture, the more flavorful the broth will be. Add the other can of coconut milk, pineapple, sweetener, tofu, water, carrots, cabbage and rest of the salt, bringing to a simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes. Add additional salt, red chili sauce and sweetener until you find the perfect mix of salt, spice and sweet.
Spoon into soup bowls and garnish with cilantro. I like to add a few spoonfuls of brown rice for additional carbohydrate and from my experience and research, Thais often add rice to their soup. The galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass are very fibrous and traditionally not eaten. Remove from your bowl or like the Thais, eat around them.
- I used ingredients that I had on hand, but the key to this classic Thai soup is fresh lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and shallots. Add more of these if you don’t have time to simmer for longer, you can’t overdo these ingredients.
- The amount of salt and sweetener is very important as well. More salt will bring out the flavors and I think it also helps break down the hearty fiber of the lemongrass and galangal, so the aromatic flavors release. I am always surprised at the amount of salt needed, so err on the side of too salty. The sweetener is important, but some prefer a less sweet Tom Kha, and a lot of US Thai restaurants seem to be more savory than sweet.
- Asian markets are your best bet for finding fresh lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, but you can find shallots and some Thai ingredients at larger grocers and natural food stores. The kaffir lime leaves can sometimes be found in the frozen foods section of Asian markets.
- For this recipe I didn’t use vegetable stock. I opted to skip a step by making a quick stock with the mushrooms and fresh Thai ingredients by sautéing them in coconut milk. Whole (not light) coconut milk seemed to pull out the flavors of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and shallots. I have tried prepared vegetable stocks and even Asian/Pho stocks, but their flavors seem to overwhelm the taste of the traditional Tom Kha flavors. A prepared mushroom broth might work or try making your own stock if you have a little extra time.
- If you want to reduce the fat content, use one can of light coconut milk for the second can of whole coconut milk.
- I forgot to add garlic, carrots and cabbage, but it didn’t seem to affect the flavor. Feel free to incorporate other veggies.
- I haven’t tried using a slow cooker for this recipe, but I think it would be a great way to maximize flavor, not to mention being ready to eat when you get home in the evening!