In Thailand, soup is an indispensible accompaniment to the meal. Interestingly, it is served as a part of the meal and not as a first course! If you are a fan of Thai Cuisine, then I’m sure Tom Yum Goong is among the top three in your list. This healthy and nourishing soup is probably the most popular Thai soup appreciated worldwide for its distinct hot-n-sour flavour. The moment you put the first spoonful of this fragrant soup into your mouth, you start feeling a de-stressing and rejuvenating effect arising out of the harmony of citrus flavours of kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. The ingredients in the soup have the ability to boost the immune system and have anti-cancer properties too!
Tom yum soups have different local names based on the ingredients used. The hot and sour soup with prawns is called tom yum goong (or tom yum kung). The tom yum soup with chicken is called tom yum kai. These tom yums can also be made with other seafood, but tom yum goong stands out as one of the gems of authentic Thai cuisine. Mushrooms, bok choy, cherry tomatoes or broccoli can be added to this soup, but are optional. Some people prefer using chopped Thai basil instead of chopped cilantro for garnishing. If you like to make it hotter, add the commercially available Thai chilli paste or Sriracha sauce to the soup, which will impart a reddish colour to the soup too!
How to choose the perfect lemongrass?
Lemongrass has a distinctive citrus aroma, having an intense lemon–ginger flavour, minus the sourness. Lemon rind or the commercial lemongrass powder (serai powder) can be a substitute, but nothing beats the real flavour of this wonder ingredient.
Fresh lemongrass is now available across Asian supermarkets, grocery stores and wet markets worldwide: thanks to the growing popularity of Thai cuisine globally! The stems are sold in clusters, with each stem being roughly seven inches long. These should be firm and fragrant. Always make sure that you buy only the freshest and tightly held stalks with a lemon-green tinge. Choosing fresh lemongrass is very important because this ingredient decides on the flavour of this soup dish immensely (along with the kaffir lime leaves).
Lemongrass can be stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator. This way, one can make these stalks keep fresh and aromatic for three weeks!
How to select perfect prawns?
I must say that I am lucky to live in a country where I get live prawns swimming around in big aquariums in my local wet market!
Buy prawns which have firm and straight bodies. The shells should be intact (we need them in this soup). Even if using frozen prawns, prefer buying the ones with shells on. The colour of the prawns should be grey with a blue tinge. Never accept red, white or yellow prawns, please.
Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot and Sour Prawn Soup)
- Raw jumbo prawns: 2 pounds
- Lemongrass stalks (roots trimmed): 3
- Kaffir lime leaves (roughly torn): 10
- Canned straw mushrooms (each cut into half): 8 ounce
- Galangal (crushed): 1 tbsp
- Fish sauce (nam pla): 3 tbsp
- Lime juice: 4 tbsp
- Spring onion greens (chopped finely): 2 tbsp
- Freshly chopped coriander leaves (or Thai basil): 1 tbsp
- Fresh Thai red chillies (finely sliced): 4
- Chicken stock or water: 6 cups
- Salt: ½ tsp
- Ground black pepper: ½ tsp
Method of preparation:
Shell the prawns and devein them. Wash and reserve the shells and the prawns separately.
Prepare the preliminary liquid by adding water or the chicken stock to the prawn shells and bringing it to a boil.
Partially crush the lemongrass stems and add them to the stock with galangal and half the lime leaves. Let this boil over a low flame (lid closed to retain the citrus aroma) for 10 min.
Strain the stock, pour it again into the clean pan and reheat.
Add the drained mushrooms and the prawns, cooking until the prawns turn pink.
Stir in the nam pla (fish sauce), lime juice, spring onion greens, coriander leaves, chillies and the remaining lime leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
The soup can be had just like that or you can have it with jasmine rice.