Tom kha gai, one of my favorite Thai dishes, is on the menu of practically every Thai place in town. It’s a soup of coconut milk broth flavored with galangal, a root that looks like ginger but has a distinct flavor, more piney or floral. “Tom kha” is coconut galangal soup and “gai” means chicken, which usually takes the form of sliced chicken breast simmered briefly in the broth.
In my Thai travels around Western New York, the tom kha gai that sticks in my mind, for the richness of its broth, was the one at Thai Orchid Café (416 Evans St., Williamsville), where it’s on the menu for $3.25.
I called owner Chat Saiprasert to ask how the soup is made, and he relayed questions to his wife, Maneewan, who is the chef. Turns out that she usually makes her own coconut milk, instead of using canned as many Thai restaurants do. Perhaps that’s the difference.
In the kitchen they crack fresh coconuts and pry out the meat. It’s ground in a food processor with hot water, and coconut milk is squeezed out of the mix. Then it’s simmered with galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves before being flavored with lime juice, salt, sugar and prik pao chili paste. There’s no funky fish sauce.
Before adding chicken to be cooked through, and mushrooms, the goal is a balance between sweet, sour, salty and spicy. “Some people, they come for this soup only,” Chat Saiprasert said. For information, visit www.thaiorchidbuffalo.com or call 565-2094.
Foodie find: Festival of Grapes. Grape pies made by bakers of the First United Presbyterian Church will be available, so eat dessert first. There also will be hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage and more. Plus events like grape stomping and the amateur grape dessert contest. The event is Thursday through Sunday on Main Street and Central Avenue in Silver Creek. For more information, call 785-8033.