This dish was inspired by the classic Thai dish, Tom kha gai. Tom Kha Gai is a coconut-milk-based chicken soup scented with galangal (or ginger), lemongrass, chilies, fish sauce, makrut lime leaves, lime juice, and cilantro. The combination of sweet, salty, and sour flavors balanced in a creamy broth felt ideal for pairing with a mild, firm white fish like catfish, halibut, or cod. Using just one pot, this dish couldn’t be easier to assemble, and its beautiful presentation makes it look like you spent a lot longer on dinner than you actually did. The poaching liquid does double duty by gently cooking the fish and wilting the bok choy. If bok choy is unavailable, another sturdy green, like kale or Napa cabbage, can be substituted. Serve with steamed jasmine rice to soak up some of the fragrant coconut milk broth.
4 (6-ounce) catfish fillets or other flaky white fish, like cod or halibut
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
1 tablespoon lemongrass, thinly sliced (from about a 1 trimmed stalk)
1 fresh Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
2 (13 1/2-ounce) cans coconut milk
1 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar or to taste
7 ounces baby bok choy, ends trimmed and stalks separated Flaky salt (optional)
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro, both leaves and tender stems
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens
On a clean cutting board, thoroughly pat both sides of fish dry. Season the fish with sprinkle with salt on both sides and set aside.
Pickle the chilies: In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons lime juice and chilies. Set aside until ready to serve.
To Make the fried ginger topping: Set a paper towel lined plate aside for the fried ginger. In a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet set over medium-high heat, add the oil. Sauté the ginger in oil for 30 seconds to 1 minute until it appears golden brown. Err on the side of caution here, as there will be some residual carryover cooking, and the ginger will continue to darken in color (if the ginger burns, you will need to start over).
Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the ginger and oil mixture into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Evenly scatter the strained ginger from the sieve to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Reserve the ginger oil.
Using a clean paper towel or a kitchen towl, wipe the pan clean, removing any residual browned bits of crisped ginger. Add strained ginger oil back into the pan and set to medium-low heat. Add shallot, garlic, ginger, green curry paste, chile, and cook, stirring often until the shallots become translucent and the rest of the ingredients become aromatic, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
Add coconut milk, fish sauce and brown sugar to the pan. Whisk together until combined and sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer. Carefully add the catfish fillets and turn the heat down to low. Cover and cook until the fish is just cooked through and opaque, about 6 to 8 minutes. When cooked, the fish will transform from translucent to opaque and gently flake when prodded with a fork. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be between 140°F and 145°F. Using a slotted spoon or a fish spatula, gently remove the fish from the pan and divide among the serving bowls. Note: The thinner pieces will cook faster than thicker ones. The liquid should be just barely simmering, with small bubbles so make sure to adjust the heat as needed.
Add bok choy to the coconut milk broth and turn heat to medium-low. Cook bok choy until leaves are wilted and stems are tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Simmer the coconut milk for an additional 3 to 5 minutes on medium heat until it thickens and reduces slightly. The broth should not appear watery at all—it should coat the back of a spoon like a thick curry. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce, brown sugar, or lime juice as needed.
To serve, divide bok choy evenly alongside the fish and ladle coconut milk broth over each portion. Top with the fried ginger, pickled chilies, chopped cilantro, scallions and a good squeeze of lime, and serve with remaining wedges on the side. Garnish with flaky salt, if desired.