It’s cold. It’s icky. It’s time to play aaaaaand it’s time to shamelessly indulge in steaming hot soups~! Just last weekend, while I was doing my usual harvesting and gathering rounds on a “Daily Events” map, I dug up some stalks of lemongrass. I couldn’t quite remember which Tyrian recipes actually used this delicious herb, so I had a quick look-see at the Tyrian menu and – voila~! – dinner-plans presented themselves in a heartbeat!
This little Tyrian recipe actually hit a bit of a sore spot that has recently made an appearance on my Foodie-Heart. Old establishments, the really really good, famous, (ironically) very successful, “Traditional”, “Best in Town” kind of venues everyone loves going to/shop/have a good time/you name it at, are closing left, right and center in recent years. A family-run artisan bakery, an Italian Delicacy store, a Polish Butcher/Charcuterie Shop and the best cocktail bar in town, all had to close or even skip town due to problems with their (new) house owners and/or neighbors, who probably weren’t all that pleased with all of the startup office businesses moving in and out again in 2-3 month intervals… Serves ’em right I’d say, but that wouldn’t bring back the establishments in question either. The most recent jab to that sore spot was the only really fantastic and most of all: authentic Thai Restaurant in the Region had to close up their kitchen after more than 25 years due to the house owner having other plans.
I absolutely love Thai food – but I have to admit, since I had the real deal in easy walking distance, I never put some serious elbow grease into cooking Thai myself – with a few exceptions, of course. One of those exceptions was a Tom Kha Gai recipe I doctored around with for years to finally get close to the kneebucklingly delicious soup they served at their Restaurant. Like most of my Thai recipes, this one was never quite out of sight but a little neglected due to the fact that Hubby and I could simply take a little walk and grab a bowlful made by the masters themselves in less time that it would’ve taken me just to get the meatballs done. But, thanks to the digital Lemongrass poking my tastebuds awake that weekend, I took the opportunity to whip up my version of a Tom Kha again.
Nahdala’s Tom Kha Gai – Warning Label
I know that, while close in taste, it’s not really “authentic”, what with the meatballs instead of poached chicken and all that, but I hope you guys enjoy it anyways. Just for the record: traditionally chicken wings or pieces of chicken thighs and breast are poached in the soup while it’s simmering to perfection. The meatballs are my personal tweak to the deal, one I played around with after having a particularly boring Tom Kha plonked down in front of me elsewhere, with stunningly delicious chicken Wontons swimming in it. I took the idea of the spicy filling to compliment the soup, ditched the Wonton wrappers to go easy on my patience and… there you go~ Here’s what you need for 4 servings:
The Spicy Chicken Meatballs
400g Chicken Mince
100g Spring Onions, white and light green parts finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, very finely chopped
1 Red Thai Chilli, very finely chopped
1 Green Thai Chilli
1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
1 Tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 Small Bunch of Thai/Holy Basil, finely chopped
2 Stalks of Lemongrass, finely grated – as usual I’d recommend freezing the stalks to make grating them really easy
1 Lime, Zest
1 Tbsp Ginger, freshly grated
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Ghee or Peanut Oil
1) Place a small pan on medium heat and add the seeds.
2) Toast the seeds until they start to release their aroma and give off the occasional
3) Allow them to cool off while placing the remaining ingredients – sans the oil – in a large mixing bowl.
4) Line a tray or cutting board (make sure it’ll fit into your fridge beforehand) with a sheet of clingfilm.
5) Once the seeds have cooled down a bit, lightly crush them in your pestle & mortar set.
6) Add the seeds to the bowl and knead the “dough” until everything is very well combined.
7) Roll small portions of the mixture into bite-sized meatballs and gently place them on your lined tray as you move through the entire batch.
8) Once you’re done, cover the balls with another sheet of clingfilm – without tucking them in too tight, squishing them in the process.
9) Place the tray in the fridge and allow the meatballs to chill and set properties for 3 hrs.
10) Pop a large, heavy-based pan on high heat and add the ghee/oil once it’s sizzling hot.
11) Fry the meatballs on high heat, constantly wriggling the pan to turn them and to keep
them from sticking and burning until all of them are sporting a deliciously biteable
golden-brown crisp all around.
12) Transfer the meatballs out of the pan onto a tray or plate lined with paper towels – they’ll soak up any excess fat while you take care of the soup.
The Tom Kha Gai
750ml Low-Fat Coconut Milk – if you’re using full fat coconut milk (19-25%’ish) you’ll need to adjust the seasoning, adding at least another dose – about ½ of the spices – on top of what’s already in.
250ml Chicken Stock – as always, feel free to use Duck Stock for a bit more oomph instead
1 Lime, Juice and Zest
1 Lime, sliced into 8 wedges
4 Kaffir Lime Leaves
4 Thin Slices of Galangal
2-4 Bird’s Eye Chillies, sliced into thin rings or, if the chillies in the meatballs are enough for your tastebuds, sliced into larger chunks so you can easily remove them once they have left their delicious aroma yet not their heat in the liquid.
1 Small Bunch of Coriander, leaves picked for a finishing touch, stems finely chopped
3 Stalks of Lemongrass, bashed and roughly chopped
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Tamarind Paste
1-2 Tsp Brown Sugar
The Spicy Chicken Meatballs – they’re going to be finished off in the soup
or: Deboned and skinned ChickenThigh/Breast
or: Gyozas – if you’re going to use storebought ones, stick to chicken or vegetable fillings. If you want to make some yourself, you could use the “meatballs” above as filling for the Gyoza wrappers or give my Chicken & Leek Gyozas over here a go.
or: Wontons – same thing filling-wise, different wrappers and deep-fried instead of poached
100g King Oyster Mushrooms
Alt: 100g Button Mushrooms
1 Bunch of Enoki Mushrooms, stem removed
1 Shallot, very finely sliced into ringlets
1) Pour the coconut milk and stock into a large pot and turn the heat to medium.
2) Pop in a kitchen thermometer – this particular soup needs to hold a steady’ish 90°C for 10 mins once everything is in. If the soup drops below 90° you’ll just need more time, but if it goes past the 90°C mark and works up a boil, the fats in the coconut milk and the stock might split and the soup might curdle in the blink of an eye. In addition to that, going past 90°C will also put a stop to any and all developments in the flavor department since all of the delicate citrusy aromas as well as the herby ones will be washed out and basically killed by the heat. If you have a moody stovetop like I do, prepare for a bit of a pot-up, pot-down workout while having a close eye on the thermometer~ If you’ve got a modern fireplace that actually does what you tell it to do… consider yourself lucky!
3) Anyways. Add the sliced lime, lime leaves, galangal, chillies, coriander stems, lemongrass, salt, tamarind paste, brown sugar and shallots.
4) As mentioned before, treat the liquid like a high quality tea and keep it closely around 90°C for the next 10 mins.
5) Once the time’s up, strain the soup through a fine sieve into a second pot and place it back on the stove.
6) Add the meatballs or your choice of replacement along with the oyster/button mushrooms, lime zest and lime juice.
7) Once the soup is simmering away – still, keep the 90°C-marker in mind – give the meatballs about 2-4 mins until taking a careful test-bite. Residual heat after the trip through the pan and the time in the soup should have taken care of them by now – if not, keep them in a few mins longer.
8) In the meantime, add the enoki mushrooms to your soup bowls.
9) Once the meatballs are done, have a taste-test of the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
10) Grab the bowls and douse the waiting enoki mushrooms with the piping hot soup.
11) Distribute the meatballs – after (skipping) threading them onto halved lemongrass stalks for effect – and top off each serving with freshly chopped coriander leaves, lime slices and maybe some more chillies~