Turkey Tom Ka Gai

When I was pregnant, I didn’t have cravings – I had aversions. I envied those women who craved cheeseburgers and ice cream and got a free pass to eat them in stretchy pants at their leisure. For me, the smell – or even thought – of most food, and particularly meat, was nausea-inducing. I finally understood how those people who could go through a day and forget to eat felt. I didn’t want much of anything, except perhaps the occasional slurpee and sour things, like lemonade. A friend who had gone through the same sent a list of foods that weren’t as bad coming back up.

Among the worst: roasted chicken and chicken soup. Totally not fair. One day while grocery shopping in Vancouver, a lady passed me with her cart, slumped over the bar, pulling apart and eating a deli chicken with her fingers. I had to run, not walk, to the loo.

Not surprisingly, anything fishy prompted a similar reaction. On another very pregnant day I made the unwise decision to make pad Thai on a (now off the air) cooking show called City Cooks, and when I poured the fish sauce into the hot pan, the host and entire crew watched as the colour drained out of my face and I struggled to not throw up on live TV. Good times.

Since then my appetite for chicken soup in any form has waned. But last week at a Thai restaurant in Red Deer I had a taste of Tom Ka Gai – I had forgotten how much I loved Thai coconut soup. It’s easy to make – and the lemon, garlic, ginger and chiles send those Thanksgiving flavours running. This bowl tastes nothing like turkey leftovers.

Tom Ka Gai
Tom Ka Gai

Turkey Tom Ka Gai


October 11, 2012

Adapted from Self

  • Makes: Serves 4.


4 oz. thin rice or bean vermicelli noodles (or enough for 4)

1 L chicken or turkey stock

1–2 red Thai or jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced into rings

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1-inch piece fresh lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise (optional)

2 tsp. grated lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice

3 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms - I used oyster mushrooms

1-2 cups chopped or sliced roasted turkey, or 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

1 14 oz (398 mL) can coconut milk

1-2 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and/or Thai basil, for garnish


1Soak the noodles in warm water according to the package directions until soft. Meanwhile, heat up the stock and add the chiles, garlic, ginger, lemon zest and juice and fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, until the noodles are tender. Remove them from the stock with tongs, divvying them up between 4 shallow bowls.

2Add turkey or chicken and coconut milk and bring to a simmer (if you're using raw chicken, simmer for 3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt. Add the spinach and cook just until it wilts. If you like, fish out the slices of chili and/or lemongrass. Stir in some of the cilantro, saving some for the top.

3Ladle the soup over the noodles and serve hot.


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9 comments on “Turkey Tom Ka Gai

  1. Carolyn
    October 12, 2012 at 5:04 am

    Love the pregnancy story. I, like you, had some pretty strong aversions. I couldn’t stand the smell of a grocery store and also my husband (maybe partly explains why we’re no longer married…!) To this day, many years later, I can’t pass a jar of anipasto without having flashbacks to nausia.

    I love Thai soups… can’t wait to “thai” this one!

  2. Shelagh
    October 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I also loved your pregnancy story and the one from Carolyn! Both gave me a good laugh. I couldn’t eat meat either and to this day don’t like chicken soup anymore.

  3. Laurie from Burnaby
    October 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    When I was pregnant with my one surviving child (a boy) I couldn’t bear the smell of coffee. It nauseated me completely. Then I went toxic, and the doctor put me on a salt free diet. to this day I don’t eat salt, and can taste it when people put it in things. Salty tastes ruin food for me. (He’s now pushing 45 and has two grown girls)
    I loved the recipe for pad Thai. I’ll have to try it
    Thanks, Julie

  4. Cheryl
    October 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    When preggers with E we went out for Chinese one night. I swore someone peed in the noodles, but the rest of my party disagreed. I couldn’t eat anything that contained or resembled noodles or Chinese food until at least 6 months after I gave birth. Yeesh!

    This, looks so yummy!

  5. Laura
    October 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    You just described my second pregnancy! Except I never threw up. Which almost made it worse as there was no relief from the nausea. After about week 12 I literally did not gain an ounce–but since I had gained too much with baby #1 that worked out ok lol. Too bad I gained it back while breastfeeding!

    I love tom ka gai! :)

  6. Avery
    October 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Tom Ka Gai and Tom Yum soups are probably among my most favourite soups, ever, and spicy soups (like tom yum and Chinese hot & sour)were big cravings for me! I had no aversions, but I also had the Slurpee craving. Coke Slurpees, in particular.

  7. molly
    October 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    do you know, the one food i craved beyond all others, with each and every pregnancy, was (drumroll) pad thai? eaten out, eaten in, homemade, any which way. could. not. get. enough.

    so weird.

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