This favorite Thai restaurant soup is light comfort in a bowl. A sour, sweet, spicy broth is filled with shrimp and vegetables and finished with the fresh bite of basil and cilantro. Thai Hot and Sour Soup is the perfect light meal when the walls are starting to close in. And even better, you can have it on the table in under 30 minutes.
There are a few special ingredients that are worth seeking out. Most are starting to be available at the grocery store, but you may need to explore an Asian market to pick up some of the ingredients. The good news is Kiffer lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass can all be frozen so you can stock up once and be prepared for more Thai recipes in the future. A quick browse on Amazon shows that these fresh ingredients can be ordered there as well.
What is Thai Hot and Sour Soup (Tom Yum Soup)?
This broth soup is from Thailand. Tom means boiling and Yum refers to the hot meaning spicy and sour combination of flavor. It is commonly made with shrimp (Goon (or sometimes spelled Kung) means prawns or shrimp. Or you can make this soup with chicken and it would be Tom Yum Gai (Gai means chicken). The broth is infused with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce which provide the sour notes. Thai chiles in some form provide the spicy elements and together the broth is transformed into something wonderful.
Bundles of stalks of lemongrass can be found in Asian markets as well as where the fresh packaged herbs are sold in most grocery stores. The bottom stem should be cut off and discarded as it is too tough. The top part is also tough and when you buy lemongrass in packages it has also been cut off. What you want to eat is the middle section. Remove the hard outer layers and you will see purple rings, this is what you want to use. It is still fibrous and will have to be finely minced to be consumed or you can bruise the stalk by gently pounding with a knife and then add the long pieces to the broth. You can remove the pieces just before adding the shrimp or leave them in the finished dish, just warn people that they are not to be eaten.
Lemongrass can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator, (either whole or minced) or frozen for up to a year. No need to thaw frozen lemongrass if using in soup, just add it to the broth and it will infuse the liquid with a citrus spicy herbal taste that really can’t be substituted.
Other Thai Ingredients
- Galangal is a rhizome (underground creeping stem of a plant) like ginger. It has a pale smooth skin as opposed to the brown skin of ginger. The taste is stronger than ginger with the sharp spicy note and then almost a piney flavor unlike the flavor of ginger. The flesh of galangal is much more fibrous than ginger and so it can’t be grated and is usually sliced. The slices are used to infuse a dish and then removed. Found in Asian markets in the produce section it will keep in the refrigerator for a long time or sliced and frozen for even longer storage.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves also called (Makrut Lime Leaves) are the Asian equivalent to bay leaves. They are often added whole to curries and soups. The leaves of the plant are what is consumed although the plant will produce a few nubbly fruits that can be zested. Kaffir leaves can be found in the frozen aisle of Asian markets as well as in the produce aisle. I package the leaves in groups of 5-6 leaves and freeze them to use in many Thai dishes.
The broth is made by briefly simmering shallots, galangal slices, lemongrass, kaffir leaves and Thai chilies in shrimp or chicken broth. You can substitute Thai chile paste instead of the chiles. A generous serving of fish stock is added as well. After 15 minutes of gently simmering, shrimp, mushroom slices and whatever other vegetables you would like are added. Once the shrimp is cooked, you garnish the soup with another dollop of chiles in the form of nam prik pao (called Thai roasted chili paste or Thai chile jam) and a generous splash of fresh lime juice. Then just as you serve the soup add fresh basil and cilantro leaves and enjoy. You can also serve the soup over prepared rice noodles to add more oomph to the meal if you want.Print
This flavored soup is infused with Thai flavors (lemongrass and ginger) tastes both spicy and sour. When you add shrimp, mushrooms and fresh basil and cilantro you can quickly enjoy this favorite Thai soup at home.
- 4 ounces rice vermicelli or thin rice sticks
- 2 stalks lemongrass, lightly pounded and sliced
- 5 thin slices galangal (about 1”)
- 6 Kaffir lime leaves
- 8 cups chicken broth, (or shrimp broth)
- 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 1 shallot, minced, (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 pound shrimp (20–30 count) peeled and deveined
- 6 ounces mushrooms, sliced (oyster mushrooms, straw mushrooms or brown mushrooms)
- 1 can bamboo shoots, sliced
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 Teaspoons nam prik pao (Thai roasted chili paste)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced (2 tablespoons)
- In a large pot boil 3 quarts water and add the rice vermicelli. Turn off heat and let noodles cook in the hot water for 10-15, stirring occasionally until tender. Drain noodles and set aside.
- Prepare lemongrass by removing stem and slicing in half, make a diagonal slice to remove the core remaining on the halves. Slice the galangal. Gently bruise the lemongrass, galangal and Kiffer lime leaves with the dull edge of a knife.
- In a large dutch oven, heat the chicken broth over medium-high heat. Add the bruised lemongrass, galangal, Kiffer lime leaves to the broth. Stir in the minced ginger and shallots, sugar and 3 tablespoons fish sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15 minutes.
- Peel and devein the shrimp. Slice the mushrooms.
- After 15 minutes, remove the lemongrass, galangal and Kiffer lime leaves (if desired). Add the shrimp, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts and gently stir.
- Turn off heat and pan continue cooking until the shrimp have cooked and turned opaque, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in lime juice and taste. Add Thai roasted chili paste to taste.
- Just before serving, add cherry tomatoes, cilantro, basil and green onion.
- Ladle soup over noodles and offer Thai chili paste and lime slices so guest can adjust soup as desired.
You can prepare the broth (steps 1-3) strain it and freeze it to have a wonderful birth on hand.
Change Tom Yum Soup into the creamy Tom Kha soup version by adding 1/4 cup evaporated milk and more Thai chile paste just before adding the fresh herbs.
Keywords: Tom Yum Goon, Thai Hot and Sour soup