I am really obsessed with Thai food. I actually crave the flavors of Thai food quite often. Honestly, if we could go out for Thai food once a week, I would be totally content. However, we really try to not eat out very often, and I also really prefer to know what exactly is in my food. So, what better way to get what you want, then to just make it yourself. I started looking around at different authentic Thai recipes online and quickly learned to be able to really get the authentic flavors, I would need the proper ingredients. I planned to make Pad Thai and this Tom Kha Gai Soup over the weekend so I had to get all of my ingredients in order to do so. Seeing as a couple of the ingredients I was looking for didn’t exist in my regular circle of grocery shopping, this meant it was time for an adventure. I found there were two different Asian markets on Niagara Street in Downtown Buffalo, conveniently on my way home from yoga, so Saturday morning after my yoga practice, I took my little list and headed over to Niagara Street, feeling very intimidated.
First up, I stopped at A’Chau Oriental Food Market at 833 Niagara St., this is where I was able to grab most of what I needed to make my Pad Thai and Tom Kha Gai Soup, however they were out of fresh kaffir lime leaves. So, after really walking the aisles and grabbing some things not on my list, I headed over to Niagara Asian Market at 937 Niagara Street, where they had fresh kaffir lime leaves and a HUGE basement full of ingredients. In addition to the things I was looking for, I grabbed a few more that caught my eye. I actually picked up a HUGE 4-lb bag of gram flour aka chickpea flour, for just $4.99. I see lots of soccas in my near future! Both markets had so many ingredients I was already familiar with and so many that I had never heard of. They both had unlimited selections of rice noodles, rice flour, tapioca starches, palm sugar etc, available at very inexpensive prices. I could go nuts in those places for sure.
I also grabbed a bag of these Pandanus flavored Crispy Rolls from India, because they caught my eye only having 6 ingredients, coconut milk, tapioca starch, sesame, sugar, salt and pandanus extract. Naturally gluten-free and vegan, what isn’t to like? To be honest, I didn’t (and still don’t) really have a clue what pandanus is, but I didn’t care, I went for it. Some of the best foods and flavors I have discovered that I love are by completely chancing it and trying something totally new. These crispy rolls are super light and crispy, delicious and very satisfying, I love the crunch and the subtle sweetness. Looks like I will be stopping by these Asian markets a lot more than I had planned.
Once I got the few ingredients I couldn’t easily find – specifically the kaffir lime leaves and the galangal root, making this soup was an breeze. I ended up making it for lunch on Sunday! Tom Kah Gai soup has always been one of my favorites. Even when I know I am going to order some type of noodle dish at a Thai restaurant, which is more than enough food, I always feel obligated to order this soup, just because I don’t know when I will have the opportunity again. Now that I know how easy it is to make, I will just make it at home. The flavors in this soup are intense and so wonderful. The bright fresh flavor from the lemongrass is definitely the star of the show, but you get an equal burst of flavor from the keffir lime leaves. It is amazing what a punch those little guys pack! The galangal also brings a pungent flavor very similar to ginger, spicy with a little bit of bite. A little goes a long way with galangal. If you can’t find it easily, ginger will also work great here. Traditionally this soup is made with homemade chicken stock and along with diced or shredded chicken breast. I didn’t have any homemade stock at home so I went with some high quality organic low sodium chicken broth and skipped out on the meat and tofu. I just wanted to enjoy the best part, the delicious broth! To make this soup vegan you could substitute vegetable broth for the chicken and add in tofu or skip it like I did. It won’t be exactly the same flavor profile of traditional Tom Kha Gai soup, but it will still be absolutely delicious.
I am so glad I made the time to make some Thai food at home and explore the Asian markets. Look for my Pad Thai recipe, very soon! I made that Saturday night and both hubby and I were so excited with how it came out that we didn’t take a minute to stop eating so I could take pictures. Mark has already asked me when I will be making it again, so I should have that recipe up soon! Also, if you enjoy Asian foods of any kind (Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, etc) and you know of an Asian market in your neighborhood, I highly recommend checking it out.
What is your favorite type of Asian food? Do you have a favorite dish? Have you tried making it at home?
4 cups organic free-range low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 15-ounce can full-fat organic coconut milk
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces and pounded to really release the flavors
6 kaffir lime leaves
6 thin slices fresh galangal root (or ginger)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup firm tofu, diced (optional, you could also add in chicken or shrimp, etc)
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup thai basil, roughly chopped (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, add in the coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime limes, galangal, mushrooms, bell pepper, red onion, fish sauce, lime juice, chili flakes and optional tofu (or meat or shellfish). Simmer for 15 minutes. Add in the diced tomato and stir. Just before serving add in the thai basil and cilantro. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately, topped with additional chopped cilantro, thai basil and maybe some thinly sliced green onions.