If you’re not familiar with Thai food, you’re probably scratching your head wondering who this Tom Yum guy is and how he got so lucky as to be born with the last name Yum. What a great last name that would be! Or am I the only foodie here who thinks so? In this case, it’s not a guy, it’s a soup. A delicious, satisfying, belly warming Thai soup that’s not only good, but good for you. And did I mention that it’s exceptionally tasty? Well it is. And as if it couldn’t get any better, it’s also easy to make. Oh, and one last bonus – this soup is excellent if you have a cold or the flu. It will warm your tummy, open your sinuses, and cure what ails you better than any canned chicken noodle soup. Promise.
Authentic recipes for Tom Yum soup call for some exotic ingredients, but don’t let that throw you. This version substitutes more common ingredients you can use instead, so you won’t have to make excuses not to make this and you won’t have to scour the planet for those hard-to-find ingredients. So you HAVE to make it. Why? Because I said so! Okay, how about because it’s delicious.
This recipe makes two large bowls if you’re serving it as a main dish, or 4 smaller bowls if you’re serving it before a main course.
Here’s what you’ll need:
12 ounces of good quality chicken broth
12 ounces of water
2 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger, divided
1 tablespoon of lemon grass paste (produce aisle)
2 fresh limes, juiced
2 thinly sliced pieces of lime rind (1″ x 1/2″ each)
1 pound of fresh, raw shrimp (heads off, shells on)
1/4 cup of smoked pork tenderloin, julienned
1/4 cup green scallion tops, roughly chopped
6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced (or straw mushrooms)
1 teaspoon of Asian hot chili paste, or to taste
1 teaspoon of Sriracha hot chili sauce, or to taste
1 pinch of dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt, to taste
1 single-serve package of soba noodles (optional)
fresh cilantro & lime wedges for garnish
Start by peeling your shrimp; keep the shells for the broth and set the peeled shrimp aside. In a saucepan, combine the chicken broth and water. Add the fish sauce, sugar, garlic, 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, lemongrass paste (or a few short pieces of lemongrass if you can find it), the juice of 2 limes, the slices of lime peel, and the shrimp shells. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the temperature to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Using a strainer and a heat-proof bowl, strain the mixture into the bowl. Dump the chunks and shells into the trash or compost bin, and pour the strained broth back into the saucepan. Return the broth to the stove and turn the heat to medium.
To your strained broth, add the pork tenderloin, scallions, the remaining tablespoon of fresh ginger, and the mushrooms. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peeled shrimp. Now here’s where your personal preference comes into play. I like my Tom Yum soup hot. Spicy hot. Nose running and lips burning hot. So I add one teaspoon of ground chili pepper paste, one teaspoon of Sriracha sauce, and a good pinch of dried red pepper flakes (the kind you’d sprinkle on pizza). In fact, if you look at that photo of the soup, you’ll see a red ring around the edge of the bowl. That’s from all the chili sauce I put in my soup. When I say this soup will warm your tummy and open your sinuses, I mean it. I’m not playing when it comes to heat. If you like it hot, go for it. Just remember that the chilies will bloom a little once they heat up, so don’t go too crazy at first. Add a little and wait. Then taste and add a little more and wait, and keep tweaking until you have your perfect level of heat. If you’re not a fan of hot and spicy, just add a small pinch of red pepper flakes for flavor and leave it at that. Finally, sample your soup and add salt to taste.
Ladle into bowls and top with fresh cilantro (optional if you’re not a cilantro fan, but I love it). You can also place a lime wedge on the side of each bowl for those who want to add more zip. And that’s it! Hot, brothy, shrimpy, fabulous Tom Yum Goong soup in about 30 minutes. Prepare to be amazed at how easy this is to make, and how much flavor is packed into each bowl. It’s perfect for sick days, rainy days, or “I just need a bowl of soup” days. Tom Yum is my new favorite “makes me feel better” soup for any kind of day.
Note: if you don’t like shrimp, you can easily substitute thinly sliced chicken breast, smoked pork tenderloin, fish, crab or tofu. You can also throw in more of your favorite Asian veggies like baby bok choy and bean sprouts. I like to throw in a small package of soba noodles, which I don’t think is traditional, but it’s… well, it’s noodles! Trust me – it’s all good. Mmmm, mmmm good. Sop it up with a roll good. To the last drop good. You get the picture.
This recipe was adapted from The Thai Kitchen’s version of Tom Yum Soup.