Tom Yum Gai Servings: 4
½ chicken; breast
6-7 sprigs cilantro
4-5 toasted dried whole chilis
3 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ inch piece galangal
¼ cup holy basil
4 kaffir lime leaves
4 cups water
Bring water and chicken breast to boil. Let the chicken simmer while you prep. Add the sliced galangal to the soup.
On your stove, grill the peppers and unpeeled shallots over low heat. It should take half a minute for the peppers to turn brown and aromatic. Set the toasted pepper aside while let the shallots continue to cook.
Slice the ends of the lemongrass, leaving about a foot. Cut it in half and add to the pot. When the shallots are ready, they will be soft with burnt peel; remove the root and tip off from shallots with a knife. Peel the burnt part off from the shallots and drop them in the pot.
When the chicken is cooked, take the chicken out and shred it into small pieces. Put the chicken back in the pot. Rip the kaffir lime leves from the center stem and add to the pot. Add fish sauce and lime juice. Taste to see that the saltiness is balanced with the sour. You may want to serve the soup with additional lime wedges.
Ladle tom yum gai into individual bowls. Crush and sprinkle toasted peppers into the bowls. Garnish with holy basil and cilantro.
Tips and Techniques
Left over chicken makes great tom yum gai, too.
Shorten the cooking time by cooking the chicken the day before without seasonings. Add galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and other seasonings when you are ready to make the meal.
Always include the bones to make a flavorful soup. Additional dark meat with bones or just chicken bones will bring the flavor out.
Tom yum should be hot and sour but it doesn’t have to be. Many kids and older adults can’t tolerate heat.