The spicy tom yum soup is often ranked among the favourite dishes ordered by visitors to Phuket Thai restaurants. While it may or may not have originated in Southern Thailand, it’s certainly popular and widely available here. The complex flavour is at once tangy and tart, a little sweet and a bit smooth – it’s a fantastic example of the remarkable flavours Thai food is famous for.
So, how can you recreate this much-loved dish at home? What goes into an authentic spicy shrimp soup? Naturally, the ingredients vary slightly from one chef to the next, but you won’t go far wrong by following this recipe:
2 litres water
4 stalks lemongrass
2.5cm chunk galangal
10 kaffir lime leaves
5 cloves garlic
300g oyster mushrooms
2 roma tomatoes
2 medium-sized white onions
2 tsp sugar
8-12 tbsp fish sauce
8-12 tbsp lime juice
Handful of cilantro
Creamy tom yum version
3 tbsp canned Thai roasted chilli sauce (nam prik pao)
10 tbsp evaporated milk
Lime juice or fish sauce to rebalance flavour
Let’s get cooking
1. Firstly, prepare your ingredients. Put the water in a pot to boil. Tear the outermost leaf off the lemongrass and throw it away. Use a mallet to lightly pound the lemongrass to release the flavours. Slice it diagonally into 2.5cm strips. Chop the galangal into slices. Coarsely tear kaffir lime leaves. Peel the garlic. Take the stems off your chillies then slice them in two pieces.
2. Throw the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, garlic and chillies into the boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes.
3. Add the shrimp and turn the heat to low. You may find that foam builds up on your soup while cooking because of the shrimp. If it does, lightly skim it off.
4. Add your mushrooms. Slice the tomatoes and onions into big and chunky wedges. Add them to the soup, too. Boil the tom yum for about 2-3 minutes.
5. Add about 6 tbsp fish sauce first, then 2 tsp sugar. You may need more of each, but start with that.
6. Boil your tom yum for another minute, then turn off the heat. The soup is ready when the mushrooms and onions are soft, but not mushy.
7. Once the heat is off, add about 8 tbsp lime juice. Test the taste – it should be the perfect balance of sour and salty. If it isn’t, add more fish sauce, sugar or lime juice.
8. Finally chop a handful of fresh cilantro and add it to the soup. Give it one final stir. This is the clear version of the soup – tom yum goong nam sai.
For the creamy version…
9. Turn your heat back on low. Add Thai roasted chilli sauce and evaporated milk. Mix it all in and let your soup heat up for about 1 minute.
10. Check the taste again. The roasted chilli sauce and evaporated milk will alter the flavours from the clear version, so you might need more lime juice and more fish sauce.