Recipe courtesy of Su-Mei Yu

Tom Gai Kaa Onn (Chicken Coconut Cream Soup)

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  • Yield: Makes 6 servings
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One 4-inch piece young galangal or 5-inch piece fresh young ginger

9 cloves garlic, minced

15 sprigs cilantro stems with roots, minced (1/4 cup), plus 4 sprigs cilantro

4 stalks lemongrass, green parts and hard outer layers removed, 2 stalks minced, 2 stalks sliced into 3-inch lengths and lightly crushed 

1 teaspoon Thai white peppercorns, dry roasted and finely ground

3 shallots, minced 

4 cups fresh unsweetened coconut cream and milk (combined to make consistency of whole milk)

4 cups fresh unsweetened coconut cream and milk (combined to make consistency of whole milk) 

One 3-pound chicken, rinsed, thoroughly dried, and chopped into bite-size pieces 

7 kaffir lime leaves, hard center stems removed, or zest of two limes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons fish sauce (namm pla)

7 fresh bird chiles or 5 to 6 serrano chiles

1 to 2 limes, sliced into wedges


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound half of the galangal with the garlic into a paste. One at a time, add the cilantro stems and roots, miced lemongrass, ground peppercorns, and shallots in sequence, adding each new ingredient only after the previous one is pureed and incorporated into a fine paste. Set aside, or transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. 
  2. In a 4-quart saucepan, bring the coconut cream and milk to a gentle boil over medium heat. Do not overheat or it will curdle. Add the galangal paste and stir well, then add the chicken and bring to a boil. Add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass stalks, sea salt, fish sauce, the remaining galangal and the chiles, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked. 
  3. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the cilantro sprigs, and serve with the lime wedges.