11 June 2012

Tom yum soup

Of all of the Thai dishes, there's nothing that's as simple yet as satisfying as tom yum, the famous clear and spicy soup infused with the unmistakable Thai tastes of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chilies. We learned to make tom yum at the first Thai cooking class that we took, two years ago in Phuket. There's really nothing to it though...just throw everything into a pot, cook and voila! We continue to enjoy it regularly at roadside stalls, where it traditionally includes shrimp (tom yum goong). But making it at home is as simple as pie, and considering how healthy it is (no fat at all) it's the perfect dish for us right now, when we've just finished a 3-day juice cleanse and need to ease back into regular eating with a few days of mostly soups, salads, vegetables and fruits. Tom yum is also perfect when you're sick...the spicy broth will clear any cold or sinuses in no time!

If you want something creamier, try the only slightly more complicated tom kha, which is made with a coconut milk base. Or do as many street food stalls and restaurants are doing these days and replace half a cup of the broth/water with evaporated milk, which you should add in the end. If you want your soup to be a bit heartier, feel free to add some tofu. Regardless of any little tweaks, there's no denying that tom yum is always delicious!

Serves 2-3

4-5 cups vegetable broth or water
3 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut into 2-3 pieces
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 kaffir lime leaves
1-3 (or more!?) Thai bird's eye chilies, roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1 cup wild oyster mushrooms (or other mushrooms of your choice), big pieces chopped in half
Light soy sauce or fish sauce, to taste
Palm sugar or brown sugar, to taste
Freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

1. In a large pot, mix together the vegetable broth/water, lemongrass stalks, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and chilies. Cover and bring to a boil.

2. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms and reduce the heat. Cook for 3-5 minutes under the mushrooms are cooked.

3. Season with light soy/fish sauce (you will need a bit more if you're using water instead of broth), palm/brown sugar and lime juice.

4. Just before serving, mix in the fresh coriander.


  1. We made our first lemongrass soup with fish last week. We would have loved to come across this recipe then. Can't wait to try it:)

  2. I'm hoarding my kaffir lime leaves that are in the freezer right now since they're so hard to find here. Might need to steal a few to make this...I do love tom yum! Beautiful table setting!

  3. When my family ordered Tom Yum, they requested to have it served in that vessel with fire below instead of just the serving bowl.

    And then (as Indian as we could get..), we'd increase the quantity by adding water and then adjust the soy sauce/vinegar/spice as our taste :D

    I love Tom Yum more than Tom Kha. Especially when I caught cold or had blocked nose, Tom Yum would work like a pill for me!

    Btw ... thanks for your comments on my posts, Ramya :)

  4. This is a favorite soup of mine, although I can't seem to find kaffir lime leaves, but all the other ingredients are available. Love the spice.

  5. I last enjoyed this on holiday last year in Thailand but am now feeling silly haven't even made it at home. This looks so good and easy too. And what a way to be cleansed! We should be living on this and far healthier than using tablets from the Pharmacy...