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Tom Yam Soup with Shrimp

January 4, 2010

And so we enter into 2010.  A new year.  A new decade.  A new experience.  For me, though, 2009 was pretty good and will be hard to beat so I have mixed feelings about moving on.

Last summer at the ripe-old age of 32 I packed up a backpack and headed overseas for a two month adventure.  I traveled around India for a few weeks then headed further east to Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore.  It was so liberating.  Before the trip, I was beginning to feel like my life was living me when in fact I should be the one living it.  This trip changed that for me.  As you can imagine, when you spend that much time out on your own, seeing new things, meeting new people, etc. it brings you back to who you really are.  Not who New York wants you to be.  Not who you feel you should be.  Just who you really are.

I’ve been back now for four months, and although the pressures of my real life are back, I continue to try to hold onto that glimpse of me I had on my travels.  I keep my memories alive by looking at my pictures and reading articles about what’s going on in the countries I was in.  I talk about the places I traveled to with friends who have also been.  I close my eyes and listen to music from these countries.  But mostly I find that what really brings me back is re-experiencing the food.  The smells, the taste, the vibrant colors…they all bring me back.

For every country I visited, I took a cooking class to show me how to make the local dishes.  In Thailand I took a class in Chiang Mai at the Thai Farm Cooking School.  In the countries I visited, all cooking starts with the local farmers’ market.  They don’t really have grocery stores that I saw.  Instead, everyone heads to the market where there is a produce section, a seasoning section, a section for the fish, a meat section, and often a livestock section.  So this was naturally our first stop for the class.

After perusing the market and learning about the ingredients, we headed to a farm about an hour outside of Chiang Mai for our class.  Our instructors first walked us around the gardens and showed us the crops including hot pepper bushes, lemongrass, and papaya.

After seeing where some of their food comes from, we then started our cooking and made curry dishes, noodles dishes, soups, and desserts.  In this post I am sharing with you the recipe for the Tom Yam soup.  Despite this soup showing up on most my take-out Thai restaurant menus, I can’t say that I had ever tried it before.  However, this is now my favorite Thai soup.  So fresh.  So full of flavor.  So yummy.

So here is the recipe for 1-2 servings.  I am including all the original ingredients but adding in parenthesis alternatives since most people don’t have items like galangal at their neighborhood Piggly Wiggly.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 stalk lemongrass sliced into 3cm long pieces
  • 1/4 cup sliced galangal (can substitute with sliced ginger)
  • 1 tsp shrimp chili paste (can substitute with regular chili paste or green curry paste; if you are not good with spiciness try half of this amount first)
  • 5 shrimps (take heads off and keep) (can also substitute with chicken, pork, or tofu)
  • 1/4 cup sliced onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (can also use soy sauce, but the fish sauce works better)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped spring onion
  • 2 leaves of Thai parsley (can substitute with basil or skip)
  • 1 stem of coriander plant (can substitute with cilantro)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (can substitute with lime peel)
  • 1-5 crushed hot chillies (optional)
  1. Put water in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn heat down to a simmer and add lemongrass, galangal (or ginger), shrimp chili paste, shrimp heads (optional), and onion.  Cook until fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes, shrimp meat and mushrooms and cook for about a minute.
  4. Flavor with fish sauce, salt and sugar.  Stir thoroughly.
  5. Add lime juice, spring onion, Thai parsley (or basil), coriander and lime leaves.  If not spicy enough, add hot chilies.  Serve (note that you do not eat the lemongrass, ginger or lime peel).


7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2010 9:33 pm

    YUM! That looks delicious.

    And, wow! The photos from your trip are gorgeous. They are straight out of National Geographic.

  2. Alison H permalink
    January 4, 2010 10:02 pm

    Your photos are amazing!
    I look forward to trying this dish – I had a very similar soup in Vietnam, with the addition of bok choy (which could probably be incorporated here too.) The fresh ginger makes all the difference too. I can taste it now… thanks Pearl Onion!

  3. Ian permalink
    January 5, 2010 8:51 am

    Kristin, This looks terrific. I look forward to making it though I’m skeptical as to how close anything can be to the stuff we had in Vietnam. Remember the dishes in Hoi An that cost twice as much ad the hotel I stayed at? Haha

  4. January 6, 2010 8:29 pm

    Kate & Alison – Thanks! And Alison, I agree that the fresh ginger adds a lot (as well as the fresh lemongrass).

    Ian – You just might be surprised. When I made this the first time at home, I was doubtful, but it was just as good as in Thailand. Oh, and I so miss those restaurants we ate at in Hoi An! So nice to have met a fellow foodie who appreciated those places with me!

  5. Carrie permalink
    January 7, 2010 12:14 pm

    Oh wow! Just saw this, and it looks absolutely amazing! Might have to make this recipe this weekend. Thank you!!

  6. Mat permalink
    January 9, 2010 11:47 am

    Maybe raq can make this tonight? I will ask. Agreed with earlier blogger that your trip really does look amazing. Life changing? Defo.

  7. Jamal alchatta permalink
    June 5, 2010 6:55 pm

    Cook very well

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