January 8, 2008

Tom Yum Goong Soup

(Easily adaptable for Vegetarians*)

Tom Yum Soup, an aromatic, spicy, and sour Thai soup is one my comfort foods. This soup is sour and fragrant from the lemongrass and lime leaves, and soothing - try a homemade version once and you are likely to get hooked forever. Every so often, I crave these flavors; Or, when I'm down with a cold or flu, this soup warms me right up and comforts me so much so that for a brief while, it's almost fine to be sick. This is my contribution to Jugalbandi's Event CLICK: Liquid Comfort.

I stock up on the ingredients for this soup when I visit the local South East Asian store. Properly stored, lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal keep for a very long time in your freezer. (The lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass in the picture have been in my freezer for 5 months. As lemongrass ages, it may become just a touch less aromatic, so you may need to up the amount used in your recipe)

(Clockwise from top right: cilantro, green onions, button mushrooms, ginger, galangal, green chilies, lime leaves, lemongrass, lime)

Galangal tastes like an austere version of ginger, with overtones of camphor, pepper and pine. A taste of it reminded me of the smell of camphor burning in temples in India. It is used a lot in Thai cooking, and freezes beautifully. Certainly worth a try, just for the fun of it. Lime leaves and lemongrass have an aromatic sour fragrance - unlike limes which just taste sour in your food without adding much in the smell department.

Tom Yum Goong Soup
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3-4 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced on a bias in 2-inch pieces
10 kaffir lime leaves
1-inch piece fresh galangal or ginger or both, sliced
4-6 Thai red or green chilies, sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce, such as nam pla
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1 (8-ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed or 5-6 Button mushrooms sliced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled with tails on
2 limes, juiced
2 green onions, sliced
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Bring the stock and water to the boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and chiles. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes to let the spices infuse the broth. For convenience, I remove the lemongrass and lime leaves from the liquid before adding the shrimp. Authentic versions of the soup leave them in, you are expected to avoid eating them in your soup bowl.

Uncover and add the fish sauce and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the shrimp and cook on very low heat (so the shrimp stay tender and juicy) for about 8 minutes until they turn pink. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice, green onions, mushrooms and cilantro. Taste for salt and spices; you should have an equal balance of spicy, salty, and sour. Keep tasting and adjusting with salt, fresh lime juice and if its not hot enough, one or two finely minced green chillies. Serve hot.


  • An overview of Thai ingredients with beautiful pictures from Jugalbandi
  • The original recipe from which I adapted mine
*The vegetarian version can be made by using vegetable stock and tofu in this recipe, and omitting the fish sauce.


Sharona May said...

Hi there, Thanks for the Tom Yum soup recipe. I have just recently realized my love of lemongrass.

Sharona May

Minti said...

Sure thing Sharona. I am a huge fan of lemongrass too - I have been using it in Rendangs and curries and soupy stews so far...

Cynthia said...

Dearest Minti, thanks for visiting my blog and helping me to discover yours. I've been browsing through your posts and I love your food! This soup I am definitely going to make!

About your question re: sardines. If you can't get brunswick, I'd suggest looking for one you think is a quality brand that's in oil or soya oil, don't take the ones in water. And the pepper, yes it is a cherry pepper, we call it wiri wiri peppers :) Sorry to hear that you cannot get good peppers there. Perhaps I need to send you a bottle of peppersauce. Look out for my post on peppers this weekend.

Looking forward to seeing you around.

Minti said...

Dear Cynthia,
I'm delighted you visited.

Thanks for getting back to me about the sardines. I think I can do some research and find a good brand here. My husband would love your dish, and I would love to try something new - so , Comfort in a can is on my list

Archana said...

I am vegetarian, but i can omit that shrimp and try. What do you suggest i substitute. Now since i have moved back to india, i am going to hunt for kaffir lime leaves. I find hard to find stuff, sometimes i feel like going to a 5 star hotel and stealing the ingredients :).


Minti said...

Hi Archana,

You can substitute with Tofu or soy nuggets. Oh - and I have a solution for those missing kaffir lime leaves - a friend of mine used lime leaves from her lime tree in India - and there were really good. So I suspect leaves from any lime tree may work. Let me know if you do try it out...

Anonymous said...

Hi ! I am visiting your blog for the first time ... and am loving it :)

~ Rupa

Jeremy said...

I love soups in winter, warming nourishing and usually make my own. This one looks little thin and my kids like thick one though.