This spicy broth is the epitome of Thai cooking, perfectly showcasing the balance of sweet, salt, spice and sour that is essential in any great Thai dish. Tom Yum (or Tom Yam) can be made with prawns (Goong) but also with chicken (Gai) or a veggie version with mushrooms or courgettes. This recipe is for the most popular version with prawns, but feel free to experiment and replace the prawns with chicken, mushrooms or courgette ribbons and the appropriate stock.
Lots of the aromatics in this soup are cut into large chunks, the lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, chilli and garlic. You aren’t really supposed to eat them, they are mainly there to flavour the stock. For a more refined version you can make the stock separately and then strain out the aromatics and add the shallots, mushrooms, tomatoes and prawns afterwards. I sometimes do this when I’m serving small bowls or teacups of the soup as part of a multi course meal.
If you are in a rush or you don’t have any stock, you can even make Tom Yum with water. simmering the water with the various aromatics – chilli, galangal (or ginger), garlic, shallots, lime leaves and lemongrass – will still give you a great flavour.
Tom Yum is a super healthy and restorative dish, great if you think you are getting a cold, the chilli will definitely help clear your head. Serve it just by itself or with steamed jasmine rice for a more substantial meal.
Ingredients for Tom Yum:
200g raw prawns, peeled and deveined. KEEP THE PEELINGS!
4 small shallots, cut in half lengthways and then finely sliced – just use one or two if using the larger banana shallots
4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed
2 sticks lemongrass, cut into 2cm lengths
2cm piece of galangal, cut into thin slices – or substitiue ginger if you can’t find galangal
75g chestnut mushrooms, cut into quarters
8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 bird’s eye chillies, cut in half lenghtways – or more if you dare!
4 makrut lime leaves (kaffir lime leaves – although I prefer not to use that term!), stem discarded and torn into pieces
30mls fish sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon chilli jam, to serve
First make prawn stock. Put the prawn peelings and cold water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes. Then strain out the prawn peelings and return the stock to the saucepan. If you don’t have shell on prawns you can skip this step and either use chicken stock, fish stock or just water.
Add the shallots, garlic, lemongrass and galangal to the stock and bring back to the boil. Then add the cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chillies and fish sauce and bring back to the boil. Simmer for three minutes.
Finally add the prawns and cook for another minute, just until the prawns turn pink. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice.
Taste and add more fish sauce or lime juice as needed. I like to serve this with a little chilli jam swirled through it and fresh coriander sprinkled on top.