Thursday, March 26, 2015

Whole30: Tom Kha Gai

Holy Cow, I'm on Day 26!!!! I can harldy believe that I have made it this far into the Whole30. My will is strong, my stomach is smaller, and I'm hungry! Only 4 more days to go.

I started to clean out my fridge today and go rid of all the paleo left overs that I am never going to eat. *WARNING*: This may disturb you. I threw away an 3 week old chicken neck from my first night on this diet which I planned on making into a stock or broth. Spoiler: I never did and it was SO DISGUSTING!!!! Clean out your fridge, people.

So, now that I'm halfway into my 4th and last week of the Whole30, I wanted to make something special and delicious. If you're like me then you LOVE Thai food and have been having serious withdrawals during the last 26 days. So, I decided to try and make my favorite Thai dish:

Tom Kha Gai or Chicken Galangal Soup!

Every restaurant has their own way of making this dish. Even when my husband and I went to Thailand we didn't always love how this soup was made. When done right this soup can curl your toes, however if done wrong it can be very disappointing in so many ways. I've had Tom Kha Gai that is too acidic or too bland and it's so sad. I made this once before and the recipe told me to add juice from 4 limes! It was so limey and terrible. So, I decided to consult the experts this time and used a little home printed cookbook my husband picked up from our local Asian market in Provo.

This is the original recipe by Kanakum Lawson:

Coconut Soup

2 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
1 stalk lemon grass (remove top 1/3 and slice the rest into 1.5 inch sections)
2-3 slices galangal (Thai ginger)
1/2 cup straw mushrooms
3 Thai chili peppers
1 chicken breast, sliced
1 lime
2 Tbsp fish sauce
3-4 Kaffir lime leaves (remove central stem)
3 sprigs cilantro
1/2 cup baby corn

Boil coconut milk, water, galangal, and lemongrass in a pot on medium to low heat. Reduce to simmer and stir frequently otherwise coconut milk can curdle. Add chicken, kaffir lime leaves, and fish sauce. Let simmer for a few minutes and then add mushrooms and corn. Bring back to a boil and turn off heat. In serving bowls, add crushed chili pepper and squeeze 1/3 lime into each bowl. Add cilantro for garnish.

I followed this recipe, however if you've gotten to know me at all you'll know that I can't help but add my own touches to other people's recipes. First, we have to make it compliant, which means no baby corn and using paleo fish sauce (without sugar). Everything else is perfeclty acceptable.

Also, I really wanted to make my soup hearty so that I didn't feel hungry two seconds after eating it. So, I added potatoes and bamboo slices which are two of my favorite ingredients that can come in this dish. I also doubled the recipe because I wanted to eat it for days.

So, there I was, following the recipe. It smelled awesome, a perfect mix of coconut and lemongrass. I had added all my ingredients and it was time for the moment of truth: The Taste Test. I took a spoonfull, brought it to my lips AND... it tasted terrible! It was completely bland. What was I going to do? Had I ruined the recipe by adding so many things to it? So, I had to fix it. I looked different recipes up online, added a few different things, and this is how it turned out:

Mikyn's Galangal Soup

4 cups water
2 cans coconut milk
5 pieces galangal
1" piece of ginger, peeled
2 stalks lemongrass, top removed and rest cut into 1/5" pieces
3 Tbsp fish sauce
4 chicken tenders, boneless, skinless, chopped into bite sizes
3 yukon gold potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1 can bamboo slices
1 can straw mushrooms
1 chicken bouillon cube
*1 Thai chili pepper, seeds removed
4 Kaffir lime leaves, middle stems removed
2 limes, juiced
1 Tbsp onion powder
3 sprigs cilantro
1/2 onion, chopped (optional)

I really wanted to bring that savory, hearty flavor to the soup without masking the lemon/lime flavor which is why I added some chicken bouillon and onion powder. The lime juice really amped up the citrus flavor and brought the soup from blah to awesome!

Here's how I would have cooked it if I'd started with this recipe in the first place:

Bring water, coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, and ginger to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes, stirring frequently. Add fish sauce, chicken bouillon, onion powder, lime leaves, chicken, and potatoes. Simmer for another ten minutes. Add lime juice, mushrooms, bamboo slices, cilantro and Thai chili. Bring back to a boil for a few minutes. Serve with some fresh cilantro.

Adding these extra ingredients made the soup really good. I'm not sure why the original recipe didn't turn out well, it was probably some sort of error on my part, however I'm giving my new recipe a big SUCCESS!

Note about ingredients:

You should be able to find everything you need for this recipe at your local Asian market which will carry galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and thai chilis. Do not eat any of these ingredients, they are simply for flavor.

*Warning: Thai chili's are very hot and you only need one to spice an entire pot of soup. Handle them carefully. Remove the seeds and wash your hands, making sure you don't touch your face or eyes before you do.

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