Tom Kha Talay (Thai Coconut and Fish Soup with Galangal)

Tom Kha Talay (Thai Coconut and Fish Soup with Galangal)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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I love making soups with coconut cream and this is one of my favorites, but I am a little spoiled I suppose in that I grow many of the key herbs and aromatics used in this recipe in my garden (see last photo).  Having said that, if you are able to get kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal (less or greater), Thai basil and phak phai (a.k.a. rau ram or Vietnamese cilantro), give this soup a try.  If you like coconut I promise this soup will become one of your favorites as well.

The following photo shows the predominant herbs and aromatics used in Thai cuisine, in particular soups.

Clockwise starting from center: double-lobed, hourglass-shaped kaffir lime leaves; lemongrass, garlic, cilantro or coriander, shallots, galangal (lesser galangal shown here), Thai basil, chilies, and phak phai (a.k.a. rau ram or Vietnamese cilantro).

Clockwise starting at top left: Keffir lime tree, lemongrass, lesser galangal rhizhomes, lesser galangal, rau ram (Vietnamese cilantro)



  • 1 14 oz. (414 ml) can of coconut cream (you may also use coconut milk but will not get as much coconut flavor as cream; besides commercial coconut milk is simply coconut cream that has been cut with water).
  • 2 quarts of fish stock (homemade is best; future post)
  • 2 lbs halibut (or cod) pieces
  • 2 14 oz cans of straw mushrooms; fresh are almost impossible to get (good alternatives are fresh white button, cremini or shitake mushrooms)
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce (very strong and pungent; a little goes a long way and be careful not to spill any…on anything!)
  • 2 Tbsp grated galangal (Asian markets usually have this in the frozen section)
  • 2 Tbsp finely minced lemongrass (Asian markets usually have this in the frozen section but may have fresh)
  • 2 large kaffir lime leaves (use more if all you have are smaller leaves; Asian markets may have this in the frozen section)
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro, Thai basil, phak phai (a.k.a. rau ram or Vietnamese cilantro), and sambal oelek chili sauce.



  • Cut fish if you purchased filets.
  • Grate galangal and finely mince lemongrass.
  • Rinse and spin-dry herbs for garnish (pat dry with paper towels if you do not have a veggie spinner). Set aside.
  • Drain straw mushrooms or quarter fresh mushrooms if you don’t use the canned straw mushrooms.


  • Pour fish stock, coconut cream, and fish sauce into large soup or stock pot.
  • Add galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves; bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  • Add fish and straw mushrooms; reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Cook for 15 minutes.


  • Serve the soup by itself or…
  • Serve over steamed rice (brown basmati rice is my preferred rice to cook/eat; healthier) or…
  • You may also choose to serve with noodles (udon would be a great choice for this soup) but cook the noodles first, place them in the soup bowls and pour the soup over them for serving.
  • Garnish with the fresh herbs and sambal oelek, which is a popular condiment in Thailand that very flavorful and only mildly spicy.


Tom Kha Talay (Thai Coconut and Fish Soup with Galangal)


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