Throughout Thailand, there are endless versions of Tom Yum Goong. From spicy to mild, sour to sweet, each soup varies in its mix of spices & herbs, and the choice between clear broth or creamy broth (with coconut milk or evaporated milk). A good excuse to order Tom Yum Goong over and over again as you travel around the country.
With all the instant Tom Yum Goong spice pastes available at the grocery store, it may give the impression that making the Thai soup from scratch is difficult. But if you have all the ingredients, and you are not too squeamish about preparing fresh shrimp – removing heads and shells, and deveining – than it is a cinch to prepare the more delicious fresh version.
How to cook?
To start, we need a shrimp broth. So the shrimp heads and shells are simmered gently along with aromatic spices such as galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and sometimes tamarind and cilantro roots. If you find that the broth isn’t strong enough, you can throw in more shrimp and simmer longer. Or add a spoonful of nam phrik phao – Thai roasted chili paste made from dried shrimp, dried chili, onion, garlic, tamarind, sugar, and salt.
Once the shrimp broth is ready, the remaining ingredients are added in. The very spicy Thai bird’s eye chili peppers to make you sweat and sniffle. Fish sauce for its pungent, salty flavor. Lime juice to complement the lemongrass and add more sour notes to the broth. And then mushrooms and tomatoes to finish off this highly addictive soup.
Cook up this Tom Yum Goong recipe a few times, and when you are comfortable with the balance of flavors, try adjusting the spices & herbs to create your own version. Southeast Asian recipes are never meant to be followed to a T-spoon. Just start with the three core spices – galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves – and go from there.
Skip the restaurant, skip the packaged spice paste, and make this fresh Thai Tom Yum soup recipe at home!