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Exploring, creating, & reflecting one day at a time

Ok so two things: I’m lagging on this whole soup week things in terms of posting, but it’s actually happening in real life! I promise! And, I know I already mentioned that I got over my illness in one day, but the show must go on!

Anna, my ol’ roomie from freshman year, has been on me about making dinner for quite some time now. She asked me about every day this past weekend, more or less, but I’m a busy lady so things didn’t work out. When my Tuesday cleared up, I decided it would be a good chance to have her come over and enjoy a meal together, like we used to do in Clark Kerr dining commons :'(. Speaking of which, I can’t believe just how long ago that was, and how soon graduation is. It’s already almost March!!! Ah, it hurts my head to think about all this time business. My friend Annie showed me this movie last week, and it didn’t make the graduation situation feel much better.

Anyway, since I had already dedicated myself to soup week, I decided to just cook for Anna & Andie instead of doing a group cooking thing. That tends to be my style…”Can we cook together sometime?!” “Sure I guess there’s this recipe I’ve been meaning to try…” aaaaand the guest usually ends up being relegated to the dinner table while I start throwing ingredients around the kitchen. I haven’t had too many serious complaints about this set up thus far, so I think I’ll stick to this strategy.

The soup I picked out for day 2 was a recipe I’ve made before, tom kha gai with pho noodles. For the layman, that’s a rich thai coconut soup with garnishes of lime, tomatoes, and beansprouts. It’s always been a favorite soup of mine but I never thought to add noodles to it until eating at one of my favorite Thai restaurants in LA–Wat Dong Moon Lek. Ya, I know, funny name, but it is awesome. It basically has every type of Thai soup, which you can pair with any type of noodle, from thick, flat rice noodles, to vermicelli, to egg noodles. It’s pretty much what I expect heaven to be like.

The key to making this soup is a lot of specialty ingredients. I procure these, you guessed it, at Berkeley Bowl. For those who don’t have access…I don’t really know what to tell you, sorry. Ranch 99 or other Asian markets would probably be pretty helpful.

The other thing to know is that even though the garnishes are garnishes, you shouldn’t treat them like garnishes. That is, they’re not optional in my opinion. They’re absolutely mandatory, but it’s up to the consumer of the bowl to decide in what quantities they want to spice up their meal.

Anna and Andie both approved of the dinner and said that they’ll be cooking the next one. I’ll post about that if I live to tell the story….just kidding I’m sure it’ll be great. Anna’s been practicing cooking for the past year, so she’s probably a pro now.

Tom Kha Gai Soup with Rice Noodles


  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, chopped
  • 1″ nub galangal root
  • handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 thai chilies, chopped with seeds removed (or however many suit your taste)
  • 1-2 sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1-2 tomatoes, cubed
  • fish sauce
  • rice noodles (I used dried, but I’ve also used fresh! Both work equally well, and I’m sure you could substitute with whatever type of noodles you have on hand, even ramen noodles!)


  1. Saute the shallots in a large pot for a couple minutes.  Add the coconut milk, broth, lemon grass, galangal, cilantro, lime leaves, and chilies.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Season with salt to taste.
  2. Add sliced chicken and mushrooms, bring to a boil again, and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add a tablespoon or two of fish sauce, to your taste.  Throw tomatoes in 2 minutes before pulling the soup off the heat.
  3. In the meantime, boil another pot of water and cook the rice noodles.  I like doing this in batches for each person, but you could do them all at once if you have a big enough pot.  When they’re cooked, strain them and run them under the cool faucet for a sec to rinse off the extra starch. Place in bowls while the soup cooks.
  4. Ladle some soup over each bowl of noodles.  Serve with bean sprouts, limes, thai basil, and chili sauce (sriracha).

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