Flu & Cold Soup: Tom Ka Gai or Tom Yam

Tom Ka Gai or Tom Yam: Thai Coconut Soup

This soup is a great choice if you are feeling unwell. Unlike traditional chicken soup it also contains red chili. Chili contains a substance called capsaicin which boost the immune system. Additional benefits: eases congestion and stimulates your taste buds; a plus given that your sense of taste is diminished during a flu or cold which contributes to  lack of appetite.

If you have someone who can cook the soup for you, that's great. Here is the recipe for Tom Ka Gai which contains chicken. Tom Yam is essentially the same without the chicken. Vegetarian version: use tofu instead of chicken and vegetable broth.

Makes 2 portions.


  • 6 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1-2 chicken breasts, sliced or tofu cut into cubes
  • 1 lemongrass stalk OR 3 Tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass
  • 4 kaffir limes leaves (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 thumb-size piece  ginger, grated
  • 1-3 fresh red chilies, minced (to taste), OR substitute 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili
  • 1/2 can good-quality coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice


  1. Slice and mince the lower portion of the lemongrass stalk. Retain the upper stalk for the soup pot.
  2. Place chicken broth in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Add  chicken  and mushrooms. Also add the prepared lemongrass (including upper stalk pieces), plus kaffir lime leaves and fresh chili. Boil 5-8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked.
  4. Turn heat down to medium. ginger, 1/2 can coconut milk, Simmer gently 1-2 minutes.
  5. Turn heat down to minimum. Add lime juice and stir.
  6. If desired you can also add vegetables such as broccoli.


  7. Remove lemongrass stalks and kaffir lime leaves.


If you don't have anyone cooking for you and/or are to sick to do it yourself, you have the following options:

Most Thai restaurants have this soup on the menu although many of them use a fair amount of sugar and too much coconut milk.

Your other option is Trader Joe's frozen Tom Yam soup: this is a surprisingly tasty version of the soup and it contains only a very minimal amount of sugar (last ingredient on list).

Again, you can spruce it up if desired, either with chicken or tofu and veggies.

Enjoy and feel better soon!