Dtom kha (hot & sour soup with coconut milk)

Dtom kha is Thailand’s second most famous soup, after dtom yam. It’s spicy and sour like dtom yam, but tempered with coconut milk, which makes it easier on the western palate, and adds a lovely complexity of flavour.

This coconutty soup is traditionally made with chicken (dtom kha gai), but as I’m meat-free, mine is a mushroomy version – dtom kha het – which is just as typically Thai in terms of flavour combinations, although not as commonly seen on menus. I keep mine nice and simple, but you could add other vegetables to vary it up a bit – snow peas, baby corn and sweet potato chunks all work well in this.

If you’re a fan of the typical Thai flavour combination of chilli, lemongrass, coconut and lime, you’re sure to love this dish. Here’s how to take your tastebuds to Thailand… 😀

Flavour: Spicy & sour

Serves: 4 as a light main meal, or 6-8 as a starter

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups vegetable stock (plain water is also fine, but stock will add greater depth of flavour)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves, roughly torn
  • 2cm cube ginger, sliced
  • 4cm cube galangal, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 4 fresh bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 200g mushrooms of your choice
    • Amateur tip: I love oyster mushrooms for this dish, but also use straw mushrooms, and the Thai het khon mushrooms are great if you can find them
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups coconut milk (I like to use powdered coconut cream – 6-8 tablespoons mixed with 2 cups of water will do the job)
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • small bunch Thai basil, leaves only (if you can’t find Thai basil, Italian basil will do, but it won’t give you the same flavour)
  • small bunch coriander, leaves only, coarsely chopped

Optional extra ingredients:

  • Sweet potato – cut into chunks, and added along with the onion
  • Snow peas – trimmed, halved, and added along with the tomatoes
  • Baby corn – add whole, along with the tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Bring your stock or water to the boil in a large pot over a high heat, and chuck in your lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, galangal, and garlic – reduce to a simmer once it’s reached boiling point
  2. Simmer for about 10 minutes to infuse your stock with all the lovely flavours you’ve added
  3. Now, this is the point where I part ways with the Thai way (it may look pretty, but it’s hard to eat the soup when you have to navigate all those bits of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf, etc.) – strain your stock through a sieve into another large pot to catch all the bits n pieces that gave you good depth of flavour but you wouldn’t want to bite down on while eating
  4. Bring your pot of freshly strained stock to a simmer, and toss in your onions, chillies, coconut milk and sugar
  5. After about 5 minutes of simmering, toss in your mushrooms
  6. After another 5 minutes of simmering, toss in your tomatoes, soy sauce, and lime juice
  7. After 2 more minutes of simmering, take off the heat and chuck in your Thai basil and coriander – you’re now ready to serve

Serve your dtom yam het right away, garnished with a little coriander, and served with either jasmine rice or sticky rice, and preferably a crisp, cool beer to wash down the spices! 🙂

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