Thai Chicken and Rice Soup, (Kao Tom Gai)
This delicious Thai style chicken and rice sou recipe, (Kao Tom) is a popular breakfast dish in Thailand. You can easily use ground pork or turkey for this Thai rice soup if you prefer. The stock from the spareribs seasoned with Thai white peppercorn, cilantro stems, and a small amount of seasoning sauce is the perfect combination of flavors that make this Thai rice soup a breakfast favorite. It truly is a comfort food during these cold winter days. Give this Thai rice soup a try, you’ll be addicted in no time!
This Thai soup recipe is an equivalent to Chicken Noodle soup in America.There are many versions of this Asian rice soup, but this is my family’s recipe and, of course, I modified it a bit to make it as easy as possible for you to make this at home. I love how easily you can adapt and adjust the ingredients as needed. For example, you can use shitake mushroom that are fresh or dried for this recipe. I opted for Portabella mushroom instead, and it was delicious!
My sister made this for us while we were in Thailand, and I just knew it had to be the first dish I shared with you after the trip. Read about the trip here. And Here. It’s a perfect recipe for those long cold winter months.
There are a few helpful tips and techniques that help make this soup tasty! Be sure to check out the Kitchen notes/tips section at the bottom of this post.
What is the difference between Congee, Porridge, Jok and Kao Tom?
Thai rice soup is often referred to as Rice Porridge, Congee, Jok or Kao Tom. There are a few differences between these terms. Porridge is made with oats while Congee is made with rice. Jok is made with rice, but you allow the rice to cook to the point of the rice being completely broken down to pudding like consistency. Kao Tom, is a boiled rice that cooks until part of the rice is soft, but not broken down completely. All of these soup-like dishes require an extended amount of time to boil the ingredient until soft. Each region around the world, has its own various versions with countless flavors, spices and ingredients.
Chicken rice soup flavor profiles
The flavor profiles of this soup tend to be on the milder side since this popular Asian rice soup can be garnished with a few toppings to personalize the taste. If you ordered this Thai rice soup while in Thailand, you will receive an accompanied group of garnishes like fried garlic, pickled Thai chili peppers, dried chili pepper flakes, cilantro/culantro, green onions, fish sauce, Thai white peppercorn and granulated sugar. My best suggestion is to first taste the soup without any added garnishing to truly taste the delicious flavors. Then, add a tiny amount of each garnish as desired.... except that fried garlic. Just load up on that! Just kidding. I swear this soup is not the same without the fried garlic. Stay tuned for my fried garlic recipe next.
So, here is my best and easy version of this tasty Thai breakfast rice soup. You can find almost of the ingredients in your regular grocery store minus the Thai white peppercorn. It’s one of the main flavor profiles that you’ll not want to skip out on. You can purchase it here if you rather not go to the Asian market. If you want to be adventurous and go check out your local Asian store, I made a list of ingredients you’ll need to buy to make this chicken rice soup, or Kao Tom. Keep scrolling to go to the list. If you do go, make sure to grab a few of these necessary kitchen spices and sauces you'll want to have in your kitchen pantry!
Ingredients for Thai chicken rice soup
For the stock:
1 lb spare ribs
1 oz cilantro stems, largest and lowest stems possible
1.5 tsp salt
2 Tbsp grounded Thai white peppercorns
14 cups water
For the soup:
1 cup moderately packed cooked jasmine or white rice
1 lb ground meat, chicken, pork, or turkey
1 cup chopped portabella mushroom. Approx. 3 large mushrooms
2 Tbsp seasoning sauce, Maggie or Golden Mountain brand
Thai Rice Soup Step by Step
- Gather all the ingredient list for the stock, which are, pork ribs, cilantro stems, salt, and Thai white peppercorns.
- Place the stock ingredients in a large stock pot, at least 6 quart in size.
- Pour 14 cups of water into the pot and turn the heat to high until boiling.
- Scoop out scum as necessary.
- Gather all the ingredient list for the stock, which are; cooked rice, ground meat, portobello mushroom, and seasoning sauce.
- Pour the rice into the pot and let it cook for 20-25 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the ground meat, make sure to cut it up into smaller chunks.
- Add the mushroom and the seasoning sauce and let it cook for 10-15 more minutes.
- Carefully fish out the spareribs, remove the bones, and slice the tender meat into small bite size pieces and out all the meat back into the pot. Stir and turn the heat off. Done!
Suggested Congee/Thai Rice Soup condiment:
- Fried garlic
- Chopped cilantro
- Chopped green onion
- Granulated brown or white sugar
- Thai white peppercorn powder
- Pickled bird’s eye chili peppers
How to make pickled sour chili peppers
- chop 10 fresh chili peppers into tiny round pieces (use a glove for this!)
- Add ½ cup of vinegar (white or rice vinegar)
- Let it sit unrefrigerated for 2 hours before serving.
- You can use this garnish over and over again until your entire pot of soup is gone.
Asian market grocery list for Thai rice soup:
- Cilantro (w/Roots and large stem if available)
- Thai white peppers, whole or ground
- Seasoning sauce (Golden Mountain Brand)
- Thai bird’s eye chili, (check frozen section if fresh ones aren’t available)
- Jasmine rice
U.S/Western grocery list Thai rice soup:
- Maggie Seasoning sauce
- Portabella Mushroom
- Cilantro (Largest stems possible)
- Jasmine Rice
- Ground pork, chicken, or turkey
- Spare ribs
- Green onion
What is Thai white peppercorn?
Thai white peppercorns are a common spice found in most if all Thai kitchens. It has a very distinct peppery aroma and flavor that adds a tiny kick to your dish. They are made from ripe peppercorns that have been harvested, dried, and outer shells removed. Thus the “white” of the shelled peppercorns. After being processed and packaged, these peppercorns are then sold as either whole ground up as powder to consumers. I highly recommend buying whole peppercorns if able as you can crush them into powder form easily.
Kitchen Notes and Tips for making Thai Chicken Rice Soup (Kao Tom Gai)
- If possible, use cilantro roots where all the amazing flavors are most concentrated. If not, use the largest parts of the cilantro stems but double up on the amount of the stems used.
- For the rice used, make sure to use cooked jasmine or white rice, but not freshly cooked. Day old rice is perfect, but if you are in a hurry, place the cooked rice on a plate on a thin spread to let the moisture out a bit, or your Thai rice soup will be too porridge like.
- Use whole Thai white peppers if possible; you can always grind it to powdered form. Whole Thai white peppers has a stronger flavor because they hold thier freshness longer, making the seasoning taste even better.
- You can use spare ribs or baby back ribs for the bone broth. I used spare ribs and love the result. I love the extra meat from the spare ribs for the extra protein.
- Some Kao Tom Recipes, Thai Rice soup, use eggs, but I don’t here just because I want minimal ingredients for this dish. Plus, there’s plenty of protein already from the ground meat and the spare ribs meat.
- Thai rice soup freezes well, so you can freeze leftovers in small glass jars for up to 3 months.