Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tom Kah Gai and how I fell in love with Siam cuisine

To see more stories and recipes about Food We Love, click HERE!

We lived in Thailand for over three years and really loved the food there. I have done posts about Coconut Ice Cream, Som Tam and Moo Ping. I usually include a recipe because I know some readers want to try and make these dishes, so I try and use the best I can find. 

Whenever I start searching I always end up at a great Thai cooking website called She Simmers by a very talented girl called Leela. Her recipes are spot on and are always wonderfully explained and her posts and photos are unbeatable, I cannot compete with the way she does it, so I don't. I link her posts while drooling at the images. 



This post is about Tom Kah Gai, my all time favorite Thai soup and my memorable introduction into Thai food. After the move to Phuket and getting settled I tried many more bowls of Tom Kah Gai. Here goes my story about this Thai soup and how it stuck to my palate and my heart.


It was around the year 2000, not sure if before or after the massive Y2K party, I think maybe after. I was living in Cusco, Peru and a british girl had opened a cute little restaurant on the Plaza de Armas called The Blueberry Lounge. Even though I had heard about it, seen it being ordered in a couple of movies and things like that, I had never before tried Thai food. 

The Blueberry Lounge, had a nice menu with wordly dishes but I only remember the one, the lemongrass and galangal chicken soup with coconut milk and mushrooms. Im sure now that the actual flavor of the Tom Kah Gai they served was made from a paste they got sent from Thailand or England, impossible to make it for real without the real ingredients. But that didn't matter, I loved it the instant I tasted it. The creamy cononut and the lemongrass flavor was simple yumminess in a bowl.  

About a year later I tried sticky rice for the first time when a woman i knew made it for us, she had lived in Chiang Mai in the 80´s and learned to do it there. Sticky rice didnt strike a cord though like the Tom Kah Gai, I vowed to come to Thailand just to taste it again. The Blueberry Lounge closed eventually and there was no more Tom Kah Gai in Cusco. It was over ten years until I tried it again, this time in my own home, cooked by a friend who brought Tom Kah paste from Bangkok and cooked me some soup. It was nice, but a little off, I think it was just because he cooked it with the chicken on the bone and with skin and through my eyes thats just not so nice. Although that is the original classic homey kind of way to cook it. I just was not so keen on cartilage and skin.


So, years later in Bangkok I started trying every Tom Kah Gai I came across. The first one was from around the corner from the hotel, Gonzalo brought it back in a plastic bag and I slurped it up happily. It was good! but it had bones and skin...Im older now I can handle a little skin, just push it to the side of the plate. 

The second dish of Tom Kah Gai that I tried had way too many asian mushrooms and the third was made with gamey hen, lots of brown meat. The months passed and I kept ordering Tom Kah Gai in a few different places, all were nice and yummy but not until December of last year did I try the BEST Tom Kah Gai ever, better than any I had had before and better than any I had afterwards. 

There is a really famous cooking school in Thailand called The Blue Elephant, a Peruvian chef friend of ours came to Bangkok to take some private courses with the owner and head chef. One of the many dishes he learned how to make was Tom Kah Gai, and since he and his wife were staying at our house, he brought home a feast in plastic containers. It turned out his wife also loved Tom Kah Gai, and I will never forget how we ate it like little girls eating ice cream for the first time. It was the perfect mix of flavors, it was made in the traditional manner without water but instead fresh coconut water. It was the most glorious Tom Kah Gai ever and I will remember it always!

I found a great recipe at She Simmers! 
She knows her stuff so its pretty spot on.
Go check it out now!

Tom Kah Gai for Beginners 

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