Adapted from the very popular Thai chicken and coconut cream soup (tom kha gai, gai dom kha or tom khaa kai), this coconut lime chicken is a stew rather than a soup. I was inspired to make it after I posted photos of our very bountiful lime tree and a niece, Ceia, commented on Facebook that the limes were “perfect for a Thai feast.” I’d have cooked a more authentic Thai dish but our lemongrass and mint plants have died and gone to herb heaven. Still, I had all the limes I could want, and the kaffir lime tree and holy basil had enough leaves to make a nice dish with.
There is no substitute for kaffir lime leaves. NONE. If you don’t have fresh, you can buy dried.
The lime juice I used was freshly squeezed. Can commercial lime juice be substituted? Perhaps although I cannot vouch for the result.
Shallots are ideal for this dish. If I had them, I’d have used them. But I didn’t so I had to make do with onion.
Tamarind paste is sold in Asian groceries. It isn’t all that sour because sugar has been added.
Nothing can ever compare to freshly squeezed coconut milk but it isn’t found in every part of the world. Between canned and powdered coconut milk, I prefer the latter. I simply add water. How much depends on how thin or thick I want my coconut milk.
Coconut Lime Chicken Stew
- chicken thighs, drumsticks and wings from a 1.5 kilogram chicken
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- one-inch piece ginger julienned
- 1 heaping tablespoon tamarind paste
- handful holy basil leaves
- 2 pairs kaffir lime leaves
- 2 cups coconut milk
- Rinse and pat the chicken pieces dry with a kitchen towel.
- Put the chicken in a bowl. Pour in the lime juice and fish sauce. Mix well. For best results, cover the bowl and allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok or deep frying pan.
- Saute the onion and ginger until lightly browned.
- Add the chicken (with the marinade) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink and the mixture is almost dry.
- Pour in the tamarind paste.
- Add the holy basil and kaffir lime leaves.
- Pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over very low heat for 40 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is done.
- Midway through the cooking, taste the broth. Fresh coconut milk is naturally sweet. If you’re using powdered or canned coconut milk, you won’t get that natural sweetness. To balance the flavors, you may need to sprinkle in a bit of sugar.
- Garnish the coconut lime chicken stew with whole holy basil leaves before serving. Slices or wedges of lime in the bowl or on the side would be a good idea too.