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Tom Kha Gai and Steamed Jasmine Rice

  • 16 ounces chicken stock
  • 4 to 5 kaffir lime leaves*, bruised in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 stalks lemongrass*, white and pale green tips only, trimmed, bruised in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 (2-inch) piece galangal* (or ginger root), thinly sliced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (13-1/2-ounce) can coconut milk, thick cream removed and reserved from top of can
  • 1 whole dried red chile pepper*, or to taste, slightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 (6-ounce) chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste (juice of about 2 medium limes)
  • 6 green onions, green tops only, cut into 1/16-inch thick slices
  • 1/4 cup whole fresh cilantro leaves, packed
  • Steamed jasmine rice, for an accompaniment (recipe below)

In a medium sauce pan, combine the chicken stock, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, and straw mushrooms over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, then add the thin coconut milk, Thai chile, and chicken pieces. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently, uncovered, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 2 minutes. 

Just before serving, stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, green onions, and cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce, lime juice, and chiles as needed. (Hint: The key to this dish is executing the final seasoning; for a saltier, more complex dish, add more fish sauce, one teaspoon at a time, up to 4 tablespoons. For a brighter, livelier soup, add more lime juice. For a fiery finish, stir in another chile.) Just before serving, top each bowl with a dollop of coconut cream; serve immediately with jasmine rice.

*These aromatics (kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, and whole dried chiles) are for flavoring the liquid only; they are not to be consumed. If you prefer, you may place these aromatics in the center of a dampened, 6-inch square piece of cheesecloth folded double. Draw up the sides to form a pouch and tie with kitchen twine. Continue with the recipe as directed above, then discard the sachet before serving.

To make it light: Substitute light coconut milk; omit the coconut cream.

Serves 4

Steamed Jasmine Rice

  • 2 cups Thai jasmine rice
  • 2-1/4 cups cold water

Place rice in a fine mesh strainer; rinse under cool running water until it runs clear. Drain rice well, then place in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the water and bring to a full boil over high heat. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and simmer for 20 minutes without stirring.

Remove pan from heat, leaving the lid secured. Wait 20 minutes, then fluff the rice with moistened chopsticks or a rice paddle; allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Make it ahead: Rice made in a rice cooker is perfect every time. If made in a rice cooker, rice will stay warm for 3 to 4 hours. If made in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, rice will stay warm, covered in the pot, for up to 30 minutes.

Makes 6 cups cooked rice