If you ever have the chance to travel, do it. It has been one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever endured – hello jet lag, language barriers and heavy backpacks – but it was also one of the most fun and educational.
Perhaps my favorite element of travel is expanding my horizons, whether it’s observing how other people do life, learning to speak another language or exploring new cuisines. Such cuisines were Thai and Indonesian. Though very simple, straight-forward dishes, they were always fresh, inventive and incredibly flavorful.
One example of this? Tom kha gai.
About Tom Kha Gai
Tom kha gai is a broth- and coconut milk-based soup whose primary flavors are ginger (or galangal), lemongrass, and chili. It’s Thailand’s national dish and is believed to have originated in the northern part of the country with influence from neighboring Laos.
When creating a simplified version for our 31 Meals cookbook, I got it in my head to make a version with butternut squash because I imagined the flavors melding together so well. Turns out, they totally do!
Tom kha gai typically features chicken as the primary protein, along with a few mushrooms for more heartiness and texture. But I kept this version vegan friendly and upped the veggie count with an entire roasted butternut squash! Look at that creamy goodness. I could hardly wait to give it a try.
Though this soup may be foreign to some, the ingredients are fairly common and easy to attain:
Thai chili (or other hot pepper)
& fish sauce (optional)
On its own, this soup has TONS of flavor. But the addition of butternut squash makes it even more creamy and luxurious and perfect for slurping down while hunkered down inside during harsh winter weather. Trust me, this is practically all we did last week. Wake up, stay in jammies, hot cocoa, soup, back to bed. And it, was, wonderful.
I highly recommend you do the same. Enjoy!
Tom Kha Gai Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 small butternut squash (skin and seeds removed & cubed)
- 1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
- 4 cups low-sodium veggie broth (DIY or store-bought)
- 1 small shallot (thinly sliced)
- 1 small knob fresh ginger (grated // 1 knob yields ~ 3 Tbsp)
- 2 stalks lemongrass (cut into 6-inch pieces for easy removal before serving)*
- 1 cup mushrooms (sliced)
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
- 1/2 medium Thai chili or serrano pepper (thinly sliced, seeds mostly removed)
- For serving: lime (quartered), fresh chopped cilantro and basil for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (204 C). Add butternut squash to a baking sheet and toss with 2 Tbsp olive or coconut oil and a bit of sea salt. Roast for 12-15 minutes or until tender and cooked through. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In the meantime, add coconut milk, vegetable broth, ginger, lemongrass, and shallot to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer. Add fish sauce (optional) and sliced pepper and stir.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I added more ginger and a pinch more salt at this point.
- Before serving, discard lemongrass (if you used fresh stalks – otherwise ignore this instruction). Garnish with fresh lime juice (HIGHLY recommended), fresh basil and cilantro.
- This would be lovely over rice or on its own. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for several days. Freeze for longer term storage.
* Nutrition information is a rough estimate.