My love affair with Thai cuisine didn't really start off as a love affair. In fact, years ago when I first tasted something which was in my opinion, an apology of Thai cuisine. I ate at some random hut in a food court in a mall in Bangkok. Disliked it so much that I felt it was a stomach churning experience. I think for a first timer, it was a very wrong choice of place to taste Thai food for the first time.
It was on my first trip to Bangkok after I got married. Like most Mangaloreans I had not travelled out of India for the major part of my life and I loved the idea of savouring new flavours in a new land. My hubby was all excited to show me around the place he had previously been to a couple of times. Since I was not the type who liked to lose sleep on a flight, my first moments after landing in Bangkok were ridden with jet lag and crabbiness. While I loved the shopping and the amazing collection of stuff available in Bangkok that one experience of bad food remains etched in my mind to date. However, I am glad that the mister quickly tried to wipe that experience off my mind by taking me to this lovely restaurant called Red Chilli where I gorged on delicious Thai red curry and steamed fish served with piping hot Thai sticky rice. Later on we enjoyed some delicious dessert of mango and sticky rice that we picked up at the supermarket.
Roshan found this recipe while browsing for one on Youtube. A very nice tutorial with great tips on how to make this lovely Thai soup can be found both on Pai's website Hot Thai Kitchen or on her Youtube Channel. Since I don't eat prawns/shrimp, a separate portion of the soup was kept aside for me to which boiled chicken pieces were added. The whole experience of having the soup was so enjoyable. Even better was the photo shoot as I loved the different colours on display. The Thai trinity - the three main ingredients - lemongrass, galangal & red chillies are such a beautiful trio that I just couldn't stop clicking away. But since the tummy ramblings could be heard loud and clear we decided to cut it short and savour the flavours.
So, for those who are still new to Thai cuisine and this soup, well, 'Tom' pronounced as 'thom' means 'to boil', 'Yum' refers to a category of Thai salads and 'Goong' stands for Prawns
Tom Yum Goong (Thai Style Shrimp Soup)
Prep Time: 15 mins | 20 mins | Serves 4
For the soup base
- 4 cups shrimp or chicken stock or just plain water
- 1 stalk cleaned lemon grass, bruised and chopped
- 7-8 thin rounds of galangal * see notes
- 5-6 kaffir lime leaves, roughly torn * see notes
- 2 Thai red chillies/bird's eye chillies bruised and slit in 2-3 pieces (adjust to taste)
- 3 cups oyster mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces ( or any other Asian mushrooms like enoki or shimeji)
- 7-8 prawns, cleaned (peeled and de veined, retain the heads for garnish if desired)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/2 cup lime juice (adjust to taste)
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar (adjust to taste)
- 3-4 tablespoons Thai chilli paste (optional)
- Shrimp paste to taste * see notes
- Salt (only if required - the fish sauce has enough salt in it)
1. Place all the ingredients mentioned under 'for the soup base' in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes till the aromas begin to waft. If you want to remove the items for seasoning (lemon grass, galangal and lime leaves) do so now as they are only used for flavouring the soup and are not meant to be eaten. You can leave them in as a pretty garnish to your soup but make sure you don't eat them.
2. Add the mushrooms and wait for the soup to boil again. Add in the prawns and bring the soup to a gentle boil (just 1 boil) and take the pan off the heat. This is because the prawns will continue to cook in the heat so you don't want them to overcook and turn tough and chewy.
3. Now add the lime juice, fish sauce, shrimp paste and sugar and stir. Do a quick taste check - the salt content in the fish sauce differs from one brand to another so adjust the salt, check if the soup is tangy enough, add more lime juice if required. The soup should taste predominantly tangy and spicy and the salt and sugar should just about round off the flavours.
1. If you are using plain water instead of shrimp or chicken stock you will know that the flavours have been adequately unfused into it when the water starts turning yellowish and aromatic and that's when you can add the mushrooms.
2. Galangal is also popularly but wrongly referred to as Thai ginger. Galangal is a rhizome and not a root like regular ginger. Its properties are considered to be more cooling unlike regular ginger which is more hot (heaty as we say). Galangal cannot be substituted by ginger.
3. If you are substituting prawn with chicken (to make Tom Yum Gai) or fish ( to make Tom Yum Pla) then do not add the shrimp sauce as it is meant only for the shrimp soup and cannot be used as a seasoning for the chicken or fish soup.
4. While serving you may add some extra oil floating on top of the jar of the fish sauce.