Tom Yam – Cooking Thailands national Soup.

20170723_125905.jpgTom Yam / Tom Yum , an extremely popular Asian soup originating from Thailand and Laos. It`s such a success that variations of the original recipe have adapted and spread to neighbouring Asian countries and also throughout the world. The soup is characterized by its distinct typical hot and sour Thai flavours and when completed it makes up the full spectrum of the typical flavours of Thailand, which are based on a fusion of strong flavours. The five flavours of Thai cooking are Spicy (pet), Sour (brio), Salty (kem), Sweet (waan) and Bitter (kom). These flavours are always combined one way or another in most Thai recipes to produce dishes of startling intensity that burst onto the taste buds.

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The intensity of the five Thai flavours can easily be varied to match the taste of the consumer. When a Thai person orders food they will often specify how spicy, sour, sweet, etc they want the dish prepared. The concern for a lot of us westerners is that the dish is always going to be spicy. For the totally unadventurous amongst us who want to order a dish not spicy you would say ‘mai ow pet’ (do not want spicy). To order a dish that`s only a little spicy say ‘mai ow pet maak’ (do not want very spicy). To order a dish extra spicy say ‘ow pet pet’ (want spicy spicy)….but be warned , those little birds eye chillies are pure fire.

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‘Tom’ in Thai means to boil but when it`s used in relation to food dishes it means soup. ‘Yam’ means sour .Tom yum is usually made with prawns ( tom yum goong), Chicken (tom yum Gai), fish (tom yum pla), or mixed seafood (tom yum talay).Tom yum is always characterized by its distinct hot and sour flavours with fragrant herbs generously used at the very end of cooking. The basic broth is made of stock and fresh ingredients Lemon grass ,Kaffir lime leaves, Galangal, Lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chillis.

In all versions, the soup should begin with a taste explosion of spicy and sour flavours. The combination of citrus ingredients gives the soup a great depth of flavour that lingers on the tongue. Throughout my many trips to Thailand i`ve eaten the soup in many restaurants and bars. Every single time it tastes different , every chef makes it in a different way and there must be literally thousand upon thousand of variations on this National dish of Thailand.

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The recipe I`m using in this post is the best Tom yum I’ve ever tasted. Infact I`ll go as far as saying that its the best Tom yum recipe in Thailand ha ha. Luckily i have the exact measures to share it with you all , plus the secret ingredient to make it into something even more special. It definitely does have the WOW factor so just try it and see for yourselves.

Commercial Tom yum paste or the Thai chilli paste in the photo above is made by crushing all the ingredients and then stir frying in oil. Seasonings and preservative ingredients are then added. The paste is bottled or packaged, and sold around the world. Tom yum flavored with this paste may have different characteristics from that made with fresh herb ingredients.

When you`re ordering Tom Yam soup in a restaurant it can be ordered ‘nam sai’ which means no chili paste. This takes away the  spicy edge from the dish but also reduces the depth of flavour. I think its best to go out of your way to get this Thai chilli paste before you attempt to make this soup , its well worth the effort so try ordering online.

Ingredients for one portion –  Just x4 ,  x6 or however many people you`re serving )

Prawns or  Chicken breast…………………………..    Slice the chicken thinly

Young Galangal ( ginger as a substitute )…….   Sliced ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Lemongrass stalks ( lower part )………………….    Sliced ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Shallots……………………………………………………..          Sliced ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Garlic………………………………………………………..          Sliced ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Mushrooms……………………………………………….         Cut into quarters ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Tomato……………………………………………………..         About half a tomato cut into wedges

Lime………………………………………………                      Fresh juice ( about 1 tbsp perperson )

chilli Jam……………………………………………………        1 Tablespoon

Lime leaves……………………………………………………….2 Per person

Chilli to taste if you want heat………………………  To personal taste , I use 1 per person.

Spring onion……………………………………………….      sliced diagonally  ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Flat parsley…………………………………………………      Roughly chopped ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Coriander……………………………………………………      Roughly chopped ( about 1-2 tbsp )

Fish sauce……………………………………………………      To taste( about 1 tbsp per person )

Coconut cream……………………………………………..     3tbsp approx per person

Nestle condensed milk or sugar to personal taste ( i used half a tin for 5 portions )

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Method

Put a small amount of hot water into a pan  ( roughly 150 ml per person ) (small cup )

Add the galangal , lemon grass , shallot , garlic and bring to the simmer.

Add the mushrooms and tomato and bring to the boil

Add the chilli jam , lime leaves and coconut cream and  mix in.

Add Lime juice , fresh chilli , fish sauce 1 tbsp at a time until you get the taste you want. (its important to keep tasting all the time as the recipe cooks through its stages)

Add the fish  /  chicken  /  prawns and very gently simmer until cooked through. Gently turn halfway through cooking. (The meat or fish can be marinated in light soy sauce before cooking ( as below ) for added depth of flavour).

Turn off the heat , add spring onion , coriander , parsley , and more coconut cream to taste.

Add Nestles Condensed milk if you like it sweet or sugar to your own personal taste. As i said above, everyone cooks this soup differently so it really is one to develop into something you can call your own , its more fun that way. Try adding more herbs , more lime juice , more chilli jam. Chances are that you`ll never make it the same two times in a row. The one i made above in Thailand was stunning , i couldn`t wait to try it again at home in the UK . I even brought all the ingredients back home with me and made it again. It tasted beautiful , but it never quite tasted the same as it did in Hua Hin. Just go into the kitchen , have a play and enjoy the fun.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. jhon says:

    tom yam thailand food is my favorite. blend of chicken, shrimp, and vegetables make this meal has a high nutritional value. And interestingly, the food is very delicious. thanks for the recipe, cumbriafoodie

  2. Mars says:

    Wow. Great Recipe. Thanks for sharing!!!

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