NEW YORK CITY — The classic Thai soup tom ka gai, is comfort food at its best, a creamy coconut, concoction that eats like a meal and is the perfect pick-me-up.
Bursting with the fresh flavors of lime, lemongrass and the subtle heat of red chili as well as the earthiness of chicken and mushrooms, it is perfect on a cold day, or any day for that matter.
Not only that, but it's easy to make.
While the jury is very much out on the health benefits of coconut, which is very high in saturated fat, some studies have suggested that its oil has anti-inflammatory properties.
It's also a popular choice for many people who adhere to the paleo diet, which eschews dairy and processed foods in favor of foods that were around thousands of years ago.
The chicken stock that goes into the soup (better if you have time to make it yourself) is also believed to have anti-inflammatory powers and break up congestion for those with colds.
That's not to mention the loads of health benefits from the garlic and ginger.
Here's how to make this tonight.
Makes 4-6 servings.
2 cans coconut milk (lowfat is fine; and look for brands without stabilizers like guar gum)
1 tsp. coconut oil (or neutral oil like grapeseed if you don't have it)
2 cups chicken stock (homemade is better)
2 tbs. fish sauce
2 stalks of lemongrass, tough outer leaves and end of the stalk removed, cut into 2-inch pieces (here's a good video on how to prepare it)
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 dried red chili, seeds removed
1 knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 15-oz. can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed
1. Heat a wok or large pot on medium heat. Sautee the garlic, ginger and chili for about 2 minutes, until fragrant.
2. Bruise the lemongrass by hitting each piece with the back of knife to release the essential oils and then toss it in the pot along with the coconut milk, stock, lime juice and fish sauce. Stir well to incorporate.
3. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low, cooking at a brisk simmer until slightly thick and the flavors are incorporated, about 15 minutes.
4. Then add the chicken and simmer another 5-10 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Add the mushrooms and 3/4 of the lime zest and heat through, another 2 minutes.
5. Serve and garnish with the rest of the lime zest. Dig in.