Tom yum, tom kha, tom khlong… have you ever experienced a headache while navigating a Thai menu? There are so many variations to a single dish! Today’s post will be a primer in understanding Thai dishes and at the end, a recipe for vegan Tom Kha Hed.
Here’s a guide to understanding some Thai culinary words. For vegans and vegetarians dining in Thai restaurants, you will want to avoid ordering anything with the words ‘gai,’ ‘kung,’ ‘talay,’ ‘pla’ or ‘moo,’ as these refer to animal meat.
|Thai Word,English Translation|
|Gaeng,Curries and soups|
|Yum,Spicy and sour|
As you can now deduce, Tom Kha Hed is a naturally vegetarian version of Tom Kha, the creamy version of Tom Yum with coconut milk and with mushrooms. Normally the herbs are boiled but in this raw version, they are simply blended then strained. Some may consider this deviation blasphemous to Thai cooking, but hey, different strokes for different folks. Unlike its cousin Tom Yum, the addition of young coconut meat and juice in Tom Kha gives it a sweet and creamy undertone that rounds off the spiciness of Thai chiles. Since the broth is extremely rawesome by itself, it needs little adornment. For a simple meal, I like to serve it with plain zoodles (spiralised zucchini noodles) and crushed activated cashews. For a more elaborate meal, I will add massaged cabbage or marinated mushrooms.
If you like the soup warm, you can blend the soup for a longer period in your blender until it warms up, or place in the dehydrator about 20 minutes before serving.
I first developed this dish in a project at Matthew Kenney level 3. Since then, it took a few tries to fine-tune the flavour balance. I am finally satisfied with this spicy dynamite; if you try it I hope you will be too.
- 240 ml (1 cup) coconut water
- 24 g (1 small) shallot, chopped
- 10 g (1 stalk) lemongrass, cut into ¼-inch slices
- 10 g (1 tbsp) galangal, chopped
- 8 g (1 clove) garlic, chopped
- 6 g (1 tbsp) cilantro root
- 90 g (1 medium) tomato, deseeded and chopped
- 1 kaffir lime leaves, middle stem removed
- 1 fresh red Thai chile, deseeded or ¼-⅜ tsp chili powder
- 60 g (1/4 cup) young coconut meat
- 20 ml (4 tsp) lime juice and zest of 1/2 lime
- 20 g (1½ tbsp) tamari or 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
- 6 g (2-3 tsp) coconut palm sugar
- 300 g (2 medium) zucchini, peeled and spiralised
- 80 g (1/4 head) green cabbage, finely shredded
- 80 g (1 cup) fresh mushrooms (enoki, button or shimeiji)
- 30 g (1/4 cup) scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 handful cilantro leaves
- 1 handful dried coconut flakes or Spiced Cashew Nuts
- In a blender, combine the coconut water, lemongrass, galangal, cilantro root, tomato, kaffir lime leaves and chili. Blend until smooth then strain. Return the mixture to the blender, add in the coconut meat, lime juice, tamari and sweetener. Blend again until smooth. Taste the broth; it should be hot and sour with undertones of salty and sweet, and of a broth consistency (not a thick sauce). Adjust the taste/texture as necessary.
- Massage the shredded cabbage with olive oil and sea salt until slightly wilted. Place on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 46°C (115°F) for 40 minutes.
- Blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the spiralised zucchini, cabbage and mushrooms. Divide the mixture into two serving bowls. Ladle the broth into each bowl. Garnish with scallions, cilantro, coconut flakes and/or spiced cashew nuts.
- Mushrooms have chitin in abundance as part of their cell walls. Heat cooking helps to breakdown the tough chitin and more easily digestible.