Tom Ka Gai is a coconut milk based thai soup that is sweet and spicy and simply delicious. Usually there is chicken or shrimp in this soup, and almost always fish sauce, so after crossing over to the dark side I had to figure out how to make this one for myself. Luckily, with a trip to the Asian grocery store, this one is pretty simple.

recipe: tom ka veg (aka vegan tom ka gai)
for the spice blend…
  • 1 small lime (zest and juice)
  • 1 inch (or 2T) fresh ground ginger
  • 1 t coriander
  • 1 t cumin
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy soup)
for the soup
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 8 ounces chopped shitake mushrooms
  • ½ sweet onion, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 – 14 oz cans of lite coconut milk
  • 1 T veggie fish sauce (most Asian markets sell this alongside regular fish sauce)
  • 1 T veggie broth powder (or you could add a cup of strong, good quality veggie broth)
  • 2+ T of chopped fresh cilantro
for the spice blend
  1. Toss the lime juice and zest through the red pepper flake into a food processor with a few tablespoons of water and pulverize that into a spice paste.
for the soup
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom stock pot over medium high heat, cook the onion until it’s translucent.
  2. Add the shitakes, cook about 10 more minutes until the mushrooms are wilted and have released their juices.
  3. Add the spice blend and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add both cans of coconut milk and the veggie broth powder and fish sauce. Stir to blend and reduce heat to medium low.
  5. Take the stalks of lemongrass, peel away the tough outer leaves and then bruise (either by pressing down on the white-ish stalk with a spoon or fork, or literally picking up and bending with your hands, a la one of those glow sticks you bend and crack to release the glowing juices inside before heading out to the club circa 1994). Put your bruised lemongrass stalks in the mix.
  6. Cook for 30 minutes or more if you’d like.
  7. Taste to see if it’s salty enough for you and spicy enough for you.
  8. Before serving, remove the lemongrass stalks.
  9. Top each bowl with 1 T or more of chopped cilantro and a fresh squeeze of lime.