Chicken and Scallops:
1. Let’s start this recipe by firstly cooking rice for 4 in regular rice cooker fashion…Then let’s start off with the chicken and scallop prep. For the scallops, if brought whole we want to firstly shuck them by running a knife along the flat side of the shell. Angle the knife slightly facing upwards to prevent us from slicing into the scallop. When you cut far enough the shell should almost pop open. Now use a spoon to release the scallop by carefully scraping away from the shell. When released using your thumbs carefully remove the roe and outer skirt of the scallop. We will not use the roe for this recipe but feel free to add it if you like. Repeat for all of the scallops then place the scallops onto a tray and refridgerate for now.
2. Now onto the chicken wings, there’s something special when you start deboning chicken wings I find, although feel free to simply leave them with the bone in if you prefer. I only used the top half of the wing in this recipe but store the remaining parts of the wing for another dish. Start by exposing the two bones on the top section of the wing by easing away the bones by scraping downwards. When the bones become much more revealed simply twist each bone to free from the flesh and pull them out. When the two bones are removed cut the chicken wing into 2 just where the joint of the elbow is. Save the wing tips and store the deboned wings into the refrigerator for now.
3. Now onto the making of what brings the whole dish together, the broth. This soup/curry should highlight galangal, coconut and lemongrass with slightly sweet, salty and sour flavours. Begin by adding 400ml of coconut milk and 400ml of water into a saucepan then place onto a medium to low heat. Next we want to roughly slice (you don’t have to peel) 20g of galangal and 2 bruised lemongrass stalks. Add to the coconut milk along with a decent pinch of salt, 1 tsp of sugar and continue to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes to infuse the coconut milk.
Shallots and Tomatoes:
4. Whilst we wait on the broth to infuse we can move onto preparing some of the garnishes. Traditionally tom cha gai contains shallots and tomatoes in the broth, however, in this recipe I wanted to tweak these two ingredients to make things interesting. Starting with the tomatoes, make a small cross scoring the tomatoes then add to a pan of boiling water. Boil for 10 seconds then immediately place into ice cold water. When cool peel the skin off from the tomatoes then cut into halves or quarters. When ready place the blanched tomatoes to one side as we will add these to the broth at the very end.
5. For the shallots leave the skin on and slice lengthways in half. Sear the shallots in a dry pan skin side up until the centre has an even char and the shallot is just about cooked. When nicely charred carefully peel then divide the shallot into leaves by separating apart each layer. Lightly season the shallot leaves with a pinch of salt then place to one side.
6. Moving back to the broth, we now want to incorporate more flavour into the broth by poaching the deboned chicken wings and by adding some additional aromats. Start by adding the chicken wings followed by 4 ripped Kaffir lime leaves and 6-8 bruised whole Birdseye chillies or as many or few depending on how much spice you prefer. Leaving the broth on a low simmer poach the chicken wings for approximately 10 minutes or until cooked. When the chicken wings are just cooked remove from the broth and place onto a tray and leave the broth to continue to simmer.
7. To make the chicken wings more interesting I wanted to add some char to them, lightly season with a pinch of salt then char with either a blowtorch or grill under a salamander until charred. When ready grate over some fresh lime zest and we can now start to apply the last few touches to the broth and cook the scallops.
8. To cook the scallops we firstly want to place a pan onto a high heat. Whilst we wait for the pan to heat, season the scallops with salt and a decent amount of some fresh lime zest. When the pan is hot add a small drizzle of oil then add the scallops. Cook on the first side for 1 minute until nicely seared then turn over the scallops and cook for a further 30 seconds. When cooked remove from the pan and place with the chicken wings to one side and we are just about ready to plate up.
9. Just before we plate up we want to finish the broth, season with 2 tbsp of fish sauce and additional salt if needed. When ready add the tomatoes to warm through, then remove the broth from the heat. Next add the juice of 2 limes and what we are looking for a slightly sweet but sour broth that is led by the galangal and lemongrass.
10. This next step is completely optional, however, if you can source some lecithin then its a must try! To make a foam from the broth pour a 1/4 of the coconut broth into a small bowl whilst still hot. Add 1/2 a tsp of lecithin powder and pulse with a hand blender at an angle to create a foam layer of the broth. We will add this on top of the broth at the very last second before serving.
11. Now to plate up, you can really add as much or as little of the ingredients as you like. What I did, however, was to start with plating the scallops and chicken wings into the centre of the plate. Next dot around some of the tomatoes, birdseyes and charred shallots. Finally add the regular broth around the dish then top the regular broth with some of the foam. Finish with some fresh coriander, a squeeze of lime and some freshly cooked rice on the side and nourish. Hope you like my take on tom kha gai!!!
Traditionally tom kha gai has some form of mushrooms, and chicken as the main components, however, you could add various other seafood, tofu, leafy vegetables etc. Instead of eating this dish with rice then you could also add rice or glass noodles to turn the broth into more of a noodle soup. Have fun with this recipe and peace!