Caldo Xochitl Tom Ka Gai (the Chicken Soup Remix)

This one started out as just a sauce, intended to use up the tin of coconut milk that had been hanging out in our cupboard for at least the past six months.  The recipe had promised me a multitude of uses- drizzled in soup, swirled into eggs, spooned into spring rolls. It was going to be my go-to sauce this week, just as the roasted garlic oil holds a permanent position in the fridge door.

I’ve got a lovely bunch of, um, coconut milk. Also garlic, cilantro and kosher salt (hiding in the chipotle bottle)

Her recipe is very straight forward and quite China-friendly (if you can get proper coconut milk).


1 clove garlic, peeled
1 medium jalapeno (or serrano) chile, deseeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 small bunch of scallions, thinly sliced (~8 scallions)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 14-ounce can of coconut milk (full fat)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste


I had no jalepenos, but I did have finger-length green chillies. I think I ended up using a half dozen cloves of garlic because, seriously, who only uses one freaking clove in anything? I mean, what would be the point?

I had no scallions at the time, so I just left them out. I had a fistful of cilantro, so that approximated a half cup.

I had half of a lemon. I don’t know if it was 3 tablespoons of juice or not.

How to make the sauce


Mince the garlic, cilantro, chillies (and scallions if you have them).

If you have a food processer, whizz them through into a paste. If you don’t, do as I did and mince and mash them with an enormous knife. I used the side of the blade to pulverize it all. The kosher salt’s graininess helps with the pulverizing.

Chillies, cilantro and garlic, minced
And this is the same pile of fragrant loveliness after I mashed the hell out of it with the side of my knife.

Throw the mash into a bowl and squeeze in the lemon juice.

This is what it looked like when I moved it into a bowl. The cutting board was stained green.
I dare you to try pouring coconut milk whilst attempting to take a photo with the other hand.
After tasting it, I realized it needed more garlic. Oh, and a bit of fresh mint. I minced then mashed those too.
The coconut sauce is ready for its close-up, Mr DeMille.
And here’s the long-shot of the coconut sauce, posing with garlic.

After a few furtive spoonfuls, I reluctantly put it into the fridge in a storage container (an old salsa jar scrubbed clean) to marinate in its own juices for a day or two

Then, two days later, I decided to make soup.


 How to Make the Soup


Originally, I was going to just make our usual crock pot chicken soup. We’re both busy with work this long weekend, which is ironic in an Alanis Morrisette kind of way, since it is the May 1st Labour Day holiday today.  Doug’s trying to mark bizarrely incomprehensible term papers; I’m trying to plan an entire curriculum for a kids’ summer school program. Like I said, busy.

For some reason, I decided I fancied seeing if I could poach the chicken in the crock pot in some of the herbed coconut milk. I had visions of the tom ka gai we’d often eaten in Thailand (and in bastardized forms all over the world) and wondered if I could come anywhere close to replicating it, lacking the galangal, lemongrass, bullet chillies and kaffir lime leaves.

As I tend to do when delusional in the kitchen, I decided to find out.

I roughly chopped up a few more finger-sized peppers (2 red, 2 green, both of medium heat, seeds in) and threw them into the crock pot along with 4 quite small chicken breasts.  I think there may have been 400g worth, but I forgot to check the label.

Preparing to poach the chicken in coconut sauce in the crock pot. I imagine heaven’s kitchen is prepping similar dishes.

I poured in about half of the coconut milk mixture.

Raw chicken never looked so pretty before

And, um, more garlic. About half a head. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Oh, and then I decided to add another half of a head of garlic to the mix.

I let the chicken poach in the coconut milk for about 2 hours on the lowest setting.  I fished out the chicken breasts, let them cool on a plate, then pulled them apart a bit, keeping chunkiness intact.  They went into the fridge to wait until dinner.

Meanwhile, over at the crock pot, I added the rest of the coconut milk and a cup or so of water and let the broth simmer ever so gently on low to get the garlicky-chilli flavours going.

I let it simmer about an hour, then poured it into a storage container and let it join the chicken in the fridge until dinner.

How to serve the soup


Here’s where the Mexican caldo xochitl comes in.  The ones I used to live on whilst travelling around Chiapas were simple, light bowls of broth (often with a chipotle pepper bobbing in the bowl), with a few scoops of pre-cooked chicken, maybe a little rice, maybe something pumpkinny, maybe some potato. On the side were many little bowls of raw veggies: minced onions, minced tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, chilies, chunks of lime. You just added whichever of these you fancied to your soup. It was different every time. And it was awesome.

And so I started chopping.

I chopped up some more chilies, some chives, some long strange crunchy green onion-like thing from the street vendor guy, some cilantro, some lime.

The coconutty shredded chicken eyes its condiments warily

I reheated the broth on low, careful to not let the coconut milk fat separate. I threw in the shredded chicken and let them heat together.

I cooked up a cup of brown rice in the rice cooker.

Letting the chicken and broth have a bit of a meet-n-mingle session before dinner
This is how I filled my soup bowl in preparation for the broth and chicken
We ate the soup with a shared bowl of rice
For best effect, take a spoonful of rice and dip it in the broth. Eat. Repeat.

For the record, it made two rather large bowls of soup, with one more bowl-sized amount leftover for tomorrow’s lunch. And as for the flavour, much to our surprise, it tasted exactly like something that was a delicately balanced mixture of both Thai and Mexican soups ought to taste. It was lovely.

You really should make some. Go on, really. Go make some.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Daphne says:

    That seems to be a nice dish. I would love to try it myself, with less garlic though.

  2. mjskit says:

    This does sound good! Letting sauces and soup sit for a while is definitely a good thing and I can only imagine how that coconut sauce made this soup intense! All of that garlic! Why the hell not?!!:) Deeeeelicious!
    mjskit recently posted..Massaged Kale and Sweet Potato SaladMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Garlic makes life better in general!

  3. TracyAnn0312 says:

    Delicious! I love it especially when you add lots of chili and garlic. I do love foods that were spicy because it makes me feel contented every time I start to eat it. I will surely bookmark the recipe you have shared. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Daryll says:

    I wonder how long that sauce will keep. Would it be possible for me to create a large batch of the sauce, store it in the fridge and to take it out only when needed?

Comments are closed.