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Tom Kha Soup with Tofu

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© 2012 Helana Brigman
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I don’t know when it happened.  I can’t possibly pinpoint the exact moment, meal, or instance that made me pause and say, “Chicken? Gross.”  But, recently, I woke up one day  with an absolute and total disinterest in America’s most popular poultry meat.  And nobody could have been more surprised than me.Perhaps it’s because everything tastes like chicken.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been much of a meat eater.  Or, perhaps it’s because I had eaten chicken on everything from savory salads to hummus and pita that I couldn’t find a craving for the stuff at all.  In the past I had been quite happy indulging in chicken as a main source of protein, but like any food writer, it just seemed like it all tasted like chicken.  All of it. And I was tired of eating chicken.

One evening, my boyfriend’s sister brought over the most delicious soup called “Tom Kha Gai” soup.  Having once worked in an Asian restaurant, I knew instantly that “Gai” was the word chefs threw around when demanding large amounts of chicken be stir-fried for customers.  Although Christin’s Soup was quite good–awesome, in fact–I couldn’t bring myself to prepare any kind of Gai when working with this recipe.  Instead, Tofu becomes a wonderful substitute if only because in its extra-firm state it has a similar consistency to tender chicken and a wonderful ability to soak up flavors and create really any taste combination you’d like.

Pictured: Tofu-filled Tom Kha Soup is a vegetarian take on a traditional chicken (“gai”) Thai dish.  Use pan-friend extra-firm tofu for a texture reminiscent of poultry, but a flavor adaptive to any Asian sauce or spice you like.

For this version of the very popular Thai Soup, Tom Kha Gai, I’ve made a Clearly Delicious vegetarian adaptation that’s more like Tom Kha Tofu.  Nonsensical, but delicious, this lighter vegetarian soup is a great way to make a healthy flavorful dinner when watching a movie or grabbing a quick lunch break with a friend.

Substitute any sauce you like when pan-frying the tofu, and I can promise you, it won’t taste like chicken.

Tom Kha Soup with Tofu

Like any good Thai Soup, this recipe requires some less-than-common ingredients from lemongrass stalks to galangal root and kaffir lime leaves.  For these flavorful necessities, look up the nearest Asian market near you and don’t be afraid to ask for help when locating such delicious, but rare ingredients.


* 6 ounces of extra firm tofu (a little more than half of the standard 10-oz. package)

* 24 ounces chicken or vegetable stock (can substitute broth)

* 2 cans (13.5 oz) Coconut Milk (full fat)

* 2 cups straw or button mushrooms, sliced if using button

* 2 stalks lemongrass cut into 1-inch pieces

* 1 tablespoon chili paste or 2 dried chilies ground

* 6 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half or crushed like a bay leaf

* 1 2-inch chunk of fresh galangal root, sliced very thin

* 4 tablespoons fish sauce

* 4 ounces buckwheat Soba noodles, cooked according to package instructions.

* 1 lime, cut into wedges


For pan-frying tofu, I suggest a combination of 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, but any good Thai or Asian sauce works well here.

1.) Pan-fry tofu in suggested sauce (above) or any good-quality Asian sauce until coated and toasted.  Remove from heat and reserve for soup.  Cook Soba noodles according to package instructions, strain, and reserve for soup.

2.) In a large pot, combine chicken (or vegetable) stock with coconut milk, mushrooms, lemongrass, chili, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal root.  Bring to a light boil on medium-high heat and cook for ten minutes.

3.) Add fish sauce and tofu to pot stirring to combine.  Simmer for 5 minutes and serve over Soba noodles with lime wedges.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Tom Kha Gai (ต้มข่าไก่)

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Tom Kha Soup with Tofu, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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2 Trackbacks

  1. By Clearly Delicious » Spicy Japanese Eggplant on May 31, 2012 at 7:02 am

    […] buying the hard-to-find ingredients for my Tom Kha Soup with Tofu (galangal root, anyone?), I spotted the most beautiful and fresh Japanese Eggplant at Vinh Phat […]

  2. By Clearly Delicious » Tom Yum Soup on June 13, 2012 at 7:01 am

    […] I last made this soup and these roasted eggplants, I’ve been dreaming of other rich flavorful broths filled to the […]

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