There is something magical about Thailand, one of my very favorite destinations. Visits to Bangkok, the most populous city in Thailand, are full of adventure, with the floating markets, soaring temples, and longtail boat rides through the khlongs (canals) on the Chao Phraya River, waving back to the locals who live right on the river’s edge.
This is one of my favorite photos from one of my trips to Bangkok. This photogenic lady was a vendor who paddled right up to our longtail boat to peddle her wares. The locals we’ve met there are some of the sweetest people we’ve met in our travels. And the food? It’s some of the cheapest and tastiest food you’ll ever have in your travels, and the street food is heaven.
So I was very happy when my daughter Susan came up with this recipe for Thai Lemongrass Soup (known as Tom Kha Gai). It’s light, healthy, and fragrant, and a quick, easy meal using your Instant Pot. Make it mild, or you can spice it up with as many chili peppers as you can stand. If you need even more heat, add some Thai ground chili. Susan loves a spicier version, so she went with five(!) chili peppers. I’m more of a one-pepper gal. I would recommend starting with no more than two, unless you’re as hardcore about spicy food as Susan.
If you want to make the dish a little more filling, serve it with a little scoop of white rice (my favorite is jasmine). Rice can be cooked pot-in-pot while the broth is cooking. Here is an example of a pot-in-pot recipe with rice to show you how to do this. Any food with a 10-minute pressure cook time is perfect for pairing with rice. Equipment you need to do this pairing includes:
- A tall trivet (to keep rice well above the main dish)
- Stainless steel insert pan for cooking the rice
Eat this soup, and think of Bangkok. And then plan a trip to to Bangkok to enjoy the magic and to eat all of the amazing food there. Oh, and if you’re a woman, wear lightweight long sleeves and pants, or a longish skirt when visiting temples. Otherwise, you’ll be climbing some of those steep temples in the tropical heat, wearing a shawl as required. I didn’t know this going in, so it made the climb up the temple at Wat Arun just a little more arduous, but worth every minute for the breathtaking view of the city at the top.
Here I am in the pink hat and shawl, making my way up the very steep staircase (around 282 feet!) to the temple at Wat Arun, with its amazing views of the Chao Phraya River and the Grand Palace, below.
Thai Lemongrass Soup
- 2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
- 1 lb thinly-sliced boneless chicken thigh or breast
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 1 stalk lemongrass, minced
- 1 to 5 Thai red chili peppers (depending on your heat preference), thinly sliced
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar
- 1 13-oz can coconut milk
- 1/2 lb sliced fresh shitake mushrooms
- Juice of 1 lime, plus lime slices for garnish
- Salt, to taste
- Thinly-sliced green onion and cilantro, for garnish
- Set Instant Pot to “Sauté” setting, and heat oil until hot.
- Add garlic and chicken to pot and brown evenly until cooked through. Remove chicken from pot and set aside.
- Add ginger, curry paste, chili peppers, and lemongrass to pot, and sauté, stirring until fragrant, about one minute. Add chicken broth, fish sauce, and palm sugar, stirring well to deglaze pan (removes little bits of chicken and garlic that could cause a “Burn” warning.
- Put lid on pot and seal. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, and then let the pressure release naturally.
- Open pot, and stir in coconut milk and shitake mushrooms, and cook on Sauté setting until mushrooms are soft. Add chicken back to pot and stir just until heated through.
- Stir in lime juice. Add salt to taste. Garnish with scallions and cilantro, and serve.