tom ka

Posted on March 13, 2015

Last weekend, we went to Sacramento to meet our caterer for the wedding and visit our families. It was a quick visit, just for the day, but it was a good one. We began planning our wedding menu, reserved glassware and dishes, ate the culinary perfection that is a Dos Coyotes burrito. We thumbed through Jordan’s family’s old photo albums, finding that nothing has changed about the way Jordan poses for photographs today and the way he did at 4 years old. Once a ham, always a ham. (Thanks to these albums, I now also harbor a not-so-secret hope that one day Jordan will have a mustache as phenomenal as his dad’s in many of the photographs).

We brainstormed our must-play list for the DJ, tossing ideas back and forth around the kitchen island, occasionally (incessantly?) teasing my mom about her taste in music. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much on a visit home. We ate red beans and rice. To close out the night, we looked at a bunch of old photos my mom had brought back from a recent visit to my grandmother’s—my grandparent’s wedding photos, photos of my mom as little girl, photos of my great grandmother. I hadn’t seen many of the photos before, and they were all so beautiful. Beautiful in the very particular way old photographs are always beautiful. And full of the characteristic, big round eyes that will forever remind me of my mother. Strong genes right there.

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Meanwhile, back in SF (insert a more eloquent transition if you’ve got one), we’ve been hitting the crock pot pretty hard. You’ve heard about the chili verde, but there’s also been chicken tinga (recipe forthcoming, thanks Billy for the inspiration), bourbon pulled pork (thanks Liz!), my mom’s red beans and rice, ‘baked’ potato soup, and tom ka. Tom ka is a thai soup, heavy on the coconut milk and just a tad spicy. It’s one of my go-to orders at one of the Thai restaurants in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood has so many Thai restaurants that I’ve got a restaurant for curry, a restaurant for larb and garlic quail, a restaurant for soup. The glory that is San Francisco.

So I decided to see if I could make a half-decent version of tom ka at home. In my crockpot. Dun, dun dunnnn. It really wasn’t half the challenge I though it would be. As it turns out, it’s hard to screw up anything with a can of full fat coconut milk. The revelations of a home cook. They are why you come to this blog.

But this soup is delicious. It’s stupidly simple to make if you have a crockpot, and pretty darn simple even if you don’t. Combine everything and simmer until the chicken is cooked. It calls for some unique ingredients, but most of them have a long shelf life (fish sauce, curry paste), and will happily hang out in your fridge until you want to make the soup again.

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Crockpot Tom Ka (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
6 cups chicken broth
1-14 oz can coconut milk
1-2″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
2 – 3 boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips
1/2 – 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced (how much do you like mushrooms?)
2 – 3 teaspoons thai red curry paste (or 2 thai chilis, sliced)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 limes, juiced
salt, to taste
bell pepper, cilantro and green onion for serving
rice or rice noodles (optional)

In a crockpot, combine chicken broth, coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chicken, mushrooms, chili paste and fish sauce. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. If serving with rice noodles, add the rice noodles into the soup and let them cook through. Then add the lime juice and season with salt to taste. Garnish with bell pepper, cilantro and green onion.

I really like to dip rice into the broth of my tom ka like the soup is a dipping sauce. This isn’t traditional by any means and causes confusion in Thai restaurants, but that rarely stops me. Take a page from my book and serve your soup with a side of rice and salad. Live on the wild side.

-Emily

PS. Four hams. From an old roll of film, finally developed.

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