When you live in a place for awhile, you get attached to its restaurants.
Mr. Making Life Sweet and I fell in love with several restaurants during our two years living in Minneapolis. There was W.A. Frost with its unique, seasonally inspired menu; Red Cow with its juicy lamb and bison burgers; India Cafe with its creamy chicken saag; Pizzeria Lola with its perfect gluten-free pizza crust; the bakery I worked at, Salty Tart, with its addicting coconut macaroons (otherwise known as CRACK-a-roons). The list goes on and on.
There’s one place I didn’t include in the list above, and it was our favorite Thai place — a tiny, off-the-beaten-path, family-owned restaurant with the best spring rolls, pad pak and tom kha gai I’ve ever enjoyed. Since we’ve moved to Des Moines, we have yet to find a Thai place as good as Taste of Thaiyai in Apple Valley, Minn. And so, I’ve made it my personal goal to remake some of those beloved Thai dishes at home.
I’ll have a recipe for pad pak later this month, but for now let’s start with this fragrant Tom Kha Gai recipe. Tom Kha Gai is the Thai version of Coconut Chicken Soup. It’s not only rich in flavor but also packed with nutrients and anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and lemongrass.
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- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons Thai red chili paste
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (easier to cut if partially frozen)
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 3 bay leaves
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 4 chunks
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 14 oz. can quality coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (optional)
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- Juice of 2 limes
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- Heat coconut oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add red chili paste and minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and sauté until partially cooked, about 4 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, bay leaves, ginger, lemongrass, basil and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce, coconut sugar, lime juice, mushrooms, and red bell pepper. Simmer 1-2 minutes until bell peppers are tender but still crisp.
- To serve, remove lemongrass stalks, bay leaves and ginger chunks. If desired, add cilantro, salt, pepper, lemon juice and Sriracha to taste.