I had quite a few frozen albacore tuna steaks in my freezer that I needed to use up, which is the only reason I would use such a protein for this dish – let’s get that straight up front. Why? If you overcook fresh tuna, you may as well use canned, and it would be very easy to overcook it in this dish. Albacore and ahi steaks are best seared and served on the rare side. However, if you find yourself with some that have been hanging around in the freezer till their drop-dead usage date and you want to cook them through, you may want to try this recipe. If not, use another kind of meaty, white-fleshed fish, shrimp, scallops, or chicken.
This recipe uses tom kha paste. Even people who spend way too much time dealing with food don’t always want to grind lemongrass and galangal, so Thai curry pastes are a Godsend. That said, tom kha pastes tend to have too much salt and lack the brightness you’d have in a homemade version. To get around that, we add a few fresh ingredients to amp it back up. Generally speaking, this problem is less pronounced with other pastes, like panang, green and masuman, to name a few, than it is with the tom kha, which I always need to doctor up.
This is usually offered as soup in Thai restaurants, i.e., Tom Kha Gai (chicken), but I serve it with rice as a full meal.
This recipe will provide dinner to 6 – 8 people if you make a pot of jasmine rice to go with it. Serve in large bowls and then mound rice on one side.
Tom Kha Whatever-you-like
2 – 14 oz. cans coconut milk
28 oz chicken stock
1/4 cup tom kha paste (buy in Asian markets)
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled of outer leaves, cut into short (2″) sticks, using the bottom 2/3 of stalk only
2 large slices of fresh galangal or standard ginger – no need to peel
6 red bell peppers, in large chunks (they add some smokiness, but feel free to use some green and some red)
3 1/2 lbs. firm, white protein, i.e., chicken, in large cubes
1/8 cup fresh lime juice
1). In wok or large cooking vessel and over medium heat, whisk coconut milk, stock (fill each empty coconut milk can with stock to measure) and tom kha paste until blended.
2). Add lemongrass and galangal.
3). Bring to boil and add the peppers.
4). Bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
5). Bring to boil over high heat and add protein, stir in, bring to simmer, lower heat and cook until protein is just done. If using something like albacore, this would be only a couple of minutes. For chicken or shrimp, generally no more than 4 or 5 minutes. Depends also on the size of your cuts.
6). Turn off heat and stir in lime juice.
7). Taste and add a little more lime juice, if needed.
8). Ladle into bowls. A couple of scallion curls on top would be nice, or cilantro sprigs.