The 3 Main Ingredients You Need For Shortcut Tom Kha Gai Soup

The enticing flavors of Thai food are mouthwatering and totally splurge-worthy when you've got time to go out for dinner or order delivery, but we all have times when we need a stopgap solution. Whether it's for budget reasons or a tight schedule, having a few pantry items on hand to satisfy a craving for Thai flavors is a key self-care move. The good news is you can make a pretty close approximation for popular tom kha gai soup with just three main ingredients: chicken noodle soup, canned coconut milk, and fish sauce.

The comforting shortcut soup is easy to make, and also easy to customize with additional herbs and vegetables you have on hand if you want to jazz it up a bit. A handful of mushrooms or a bit of ginger and garlic could be tossed in. A can of baby corn or a few cherry tomatoes would round out the soup if you have them, but the whole point of this idea is simplicity, so no need to run to the store; use what you have.

Start with the basics for shortcut tom kha gai

Your favorite chicken noodle soup already has noodles and shredded chicken, which is a great start. Adding creamy coconut milk adds a silky texture and starts the transformation of your soup from basic to Thai-inspired. You can add coconut milk to taste, stirring it into the chicken soup until you get the desired richness. A tablespoon or two of fish sauce is the salty, umami addition you'll need next to add the background flavor that balances the rich chicken and coconut broth. The fermented condiment is savory, rich, and slightly funky, and adds depth to the overall taste.

Make the base of the soup first, adding any extra vegetables, then season it with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a touch of sugar, and a little sprinkle of chili flake to bring the flavors together. Restaurant tom kha gai is fragrant with galangal root — "kha" in Thai, but remember, this is a shortcut soup. If you'd like to make a full-fledged recipe from scratch, we applaud that, but this version will get you by until you have more time. Garnish with cilantro or green onions should you have them on hand, and enjoy your simmering pot of Thai comfort food.