Craving for Tom Yum Soup

A variety of tom yum soup in which coconut milk is added.

Thai cuisine is known for being spicy. If you don’t want it to be too spicy or hot, just say “phet nit noi kha” or if not at all, just say “mai phet kha.” Thais tend to include lots of chilies in any food you order making it too spicy if you don’t remind them beforehand.

One of the famous Thai soups is tom yum. The combination of fragrant herbs and spices results to its distinct hot and sour flavors. This soup includes crushed or minced chili peppers, lemon grass, galangalkaffir lime leaves, lime juice, and fish sauce. It is often topped with freshly chopped coriander leaves. Sometimes coconut milk is also added. This modern variety is known as tom yum nam khon.

I love tom yum particularly tom yum kung (with shrimps). However, I prefer if coconut milk is added to the broth to make it creamier. Sometimes I also eat tom yum thale, which includes mixed seafood and mushrooms. For those who are allergic to shrimps and mushrooms, they can have tom yum kai (with chicken) or tom yum pla (with fish).

My favorite traditional Thai restaurant that serves great tasting tom yum soup.

I usually eat tom yum with kai yangIt is a marinated, grilled chicken with a sticky and sweet dipping sauce and a chili dip. Then if I crave for som tam (grated papaya salad with peanuts, tomatoes and dried shrimps or salted black crabs) I ask for one "mai phet" serving. Don't forget to remind the Thais or else you will be served with a very spicy som tam.

Kai yang is served together with fresh vegetables.

Eating raw vegetables is uncommon back home but it is totally normal in Thailand. The raw cabbage, beans and slices of cucumber somewhat lessen the effect of the hot chili dip on my tongue. 

phet mak mak (very hot) som tam!

Tom yum Soup with Shrimps and Coconut Milk Recipe
  • 15 medium raw, shelled shrimps
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass
  • 3-4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2-3 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 small, minced or crushed red chili peppers
  • 2-3 gloves of minced garlic
  • 1 sliced red or green bell pepper
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup of freshly chopped coriander leaves
  • optional: brown sugar, lime juice and nam prik pao chili sauce
1. Remove the tough outer layers of the lemon grass until you see a pale yellow stalk which is softer and easier to slice. Cut the bulb. Cut thin slices until the part which is still yellow and fleshy. Reserve the upper woody end to add more flavor and fragrance but it is not edible though. You can choose to pound the slices with mortar and pestle to make them more refined or not. Cook or boil it in medium-high heat for at least 5 minutes to make them softer.

2. Add garlic, chili and kaffir lime leaves to broth and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Cook shrimps together with bell peppers for at least 5 minutes.

4. Adjust the heat from medium-high to low and add at least half of the coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce.

Things to add to adjust the taste:
  • If you want it spicier, add more chili peppers or chili sauce.
  • If it is too spicy, add more coconut milk. This will make it more creamier, too!
  • If it is too sour, add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.
  • If you want it saltier, add more fish sauce.
  • If it is too salty, add a small amount of lime juice.
5. Serve in a bowl with freshly chopped coriander leaves.