I thought maybe a little tropical warmth might be in order, particularly for those of you in the Midwest; I’m thinking of you, it’s cold out there.
Here’s an approchable plant-based variation on the delicious Thai classic Tom Kha Gai. I suspect many of these ingredients are staples, so I’m hoping you can pull this aromatic soup together without too much heartache.
If you enjoy the combination of coconut and lime, this one is for you! Enlivened by beautiful citrus notes and grounded in aromatic ginger and basil with soothing coconut milk — I find it irresistible and satisfying.
Some wonderful texture and earthen flavors from the mushroom, chewy rice and plump tofu, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble cozying up with this one.
The color of this soup will vary depending on the type of broth you use. The veg broth I used had an orange hue that mellowed to a butter yellow with the addition of the coconut milk. Chicken stock is a paler color that will give rise to a winter white broth, reminiscent of the classic Thai dish, both are pretty.
Consider adding a handful of baby spinach right before serving to round out to a meal (we often do). So good!
Be sure to read the notes in the recipe card below for all the details, including spice level. Enjoy and stay warm.
- 1 medium sized yellow onion, small dice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 seeded Thai bird's eye chili or unseeded jalapeno pepper, finely diced *see notes
- 2 Tbsp grated ginger (peel and grate the ginger)
- 4 cups (32 oz/ 900 g) vegetable broth
- 1 pound (454 g) firm or extra firm tofu, diced (I used Azumaya brand)
- 1 pound (454 g) sliced mushrooms, (I used a combination of shiitake & baby bella)
- 2 cups (about 450 g) cooked rice, (I used a combination of brown basmati and wild rice)
- 1 can (13.5 oz/ 400 mL) full fat coconut milk
- 1 stock lemongrass, optional *see notes
- 5 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp coconut palm sugar (brown sugar is fine)
- Handful fresh Thai basil leaves or sweet basil (regular basil), chopped (chiffonnade)
- In a raised skilled (skillet will be used to hold entire contents of soup) sauté onion, garlic and chili/pepper in some olive oil with a few cracks of salt over low/medium heat until the onion is translucent (about 6-8 minutes).
- Remove mixture from skillet and set aside in a bowl. In the same skillet, sauté mushrooms in a bit more olive oil with a few cracks of salt until softened and browned. Remove and add mushrooms to reserved onion mixture.
- In the same skillet, add vegetable broth, scraping up all the yummy brown bits, lemongrass (if using) and ginger, stirring to combine.
- Mix in: cooked rice and tofu, stirring gently to combine (so as not to mash the tofu). Bring to a gentle boil and then immediately reduce to low simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Return reserved mushroom, onion, garlic and chili/pepper to the skillet, stirring to combine. Add coconut milk, sugar and lime juice mixing to combine and heating for another minute or two until warmed through. Remove from heat, mix in half of the chopped basil.
- If you'd like to add a couple handfuls of baby spinach to the soup, you can do so at this point, right before serving (it will soften in the warm soup while retaining its beautiful green color).
- Serve the soup and garnish with remaining basil on top.
- Note: the longer the soup sits before service (if you make ahead for example), the more fluid will be absorbed into the rice/tofu and the less soupy broth you will have. You can add more broth/water/coconut milk to desired consistency if this is the case.
- This soup will keep well in the fridge for 3-5 days or you can freeze.
Subs: You can use whatever mushrooms you like but shiitake offers a wonderful chewy texture (it has more density/resilience to it). I like bird's eye chili for Thai inspired dishes whenever I can find it however, jalapeno will work fine. You could also skip the fresh chili/pepper and sub 1 Tbsp (or according to pref) chili garlic sauce (it will create an orangy colored broth).
Color of the Soup: I mention this in the post but the color of this soup will vary depending on the type of broth you use. The veg broth I used had an orange hue that mellowed to a butter yellow with the addition of the coconut milk. Chicken stock is a paler color that will give rise to a winter white broth, reminiscent of the classic Thai dish.
Lemongrass: If it's accessible to you without too much hassle, lemongrass is a beautiful addition to this soup. Trim the top and base of the stalk (using the bottom 4 inches or so) and peel off any dry or tough outer layers. Use a pestle or the side of a large knife to bruise the lemongrass stalk by lightly crushing it. Just leave it behind in the soup while serving (a bit like dried bay leaf, you are using it for its flavor but not eating it in this case).
Amount of Vegetable Broth: The tofu and rice, though cooked, will continue to absorb fluid over time so if you're not eating the soup right after making it, you may want to add additional broth (water or coconut milk) to desired consistency.