This is part of a series of posts I’m bringing back from my previous food blog. The topics might not be as focused, but I think they still deserve to be republished in a current forum. Enjoy this post from 2006 about Tom Kah Goong.
Tonight I made Tom Kah Goong, Thai coconut soup with shrimp. This was the first Thai food I ever ate, in a Thai restaurant back home that took over the space of the Chinese restaurant that I used to go to. It’s basically a broth made with coconut milk, chicken broth, galangal, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, chiles, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. I didn’t have any galangal or lime leaves, so I used ginger, extra lemongrass, and lemon juice. After the broth had simmered for a while, I added straw mushrooms and shrimp, and the soup was ready to eat.
This was not only the first Thai dish I attempted to cook (Thai Kitchen instant noodles don’t count), but also the first time I successfully used fish sauce. The last time was in an omelette meant to go on top of ramen, but that whole operation was botched. The first time, I made egg drop soup, but botched the addition of the egg so that the soup became creamy instead of giving me strands of scrambled egg. I added fish sauce to that, and it ended up smelling and tasting like cat food.
Anyway, I gritted my teeth and started pouring fish sauce into the soup, eyeballing 2 tablespoons. Very quickly, there was a strong pungent odor that wasn’t all too pleasant, but wasn’t like the cat food odor I encountered before. I wonder if I upset the people downstairs with the strong smell, who were watching TV and eating pizza. I tasted the broth at that point, and didn’t notice any unpleasant pungent or fishy taste. It did exactly what it was supposed to: fill out the flavor with some body, and add salt.
The combination of hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavors was very nicely matched. The shrimp were a little big; slightly smaller shrimp would have been easier to eat. I garnished the soup with cilantro and sliced chiles before I ate it. It was the kind of meal that’s so tasty that even though I was dying from the chiles, I keep eating them because it was all so good.