icon Tom Yum Goong
(from Lemongrass Restaurant, Bangkok)

Thai Tom Yum soup is perhaps one of the most famous dishes in Thai cuisine. The origins are mixed Lao and Thai. Thai Tom Yum is found its way all around SE Asia and can be found on menus in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. It has also been popularized in Europe and North America.

Tom Yum is famous for its distinct hot and sour flavors and fragrant herbs. The basic broth is made of stock and fresh ingredients such as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chili peppers. In Thailand, tom yum is usually made with prawns (tom yum goong), chicken (tom yum gai), fish (tom yum pla), or mixed seafood (tom yum talay or tom yum po taek) and mushrooms - usually straw or oyster mushrooms.

Here is a recipe from Lemongrass, our favorite restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 24 in Bangkok.


  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 lemon grass stalks
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 slices galangal
  • 4 chile padi (bird's eye chiles)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 limes, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon hot chile paste
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil


  1. To make stock: Fry the shrimp heads and shells in oil until bright orange (2-3 minutes). Then add water and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the fire off. Soak the heads and shells for further 20 minutes, then discard them and strain the broth.
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp and set them aside.
  3. Cut lemon grass into pieces, 5-6 inches long. Use the back of your knife to pound the lemon grass, just to bruise it to release the flavor. If you want, you can tie the lemon grass into a knot to make it easier to manage. Drop the lemon grass in the strained broth and let boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the stems from the kaffir lime leaves and add the leafy part to the broth. Clean and halve the mushrooms and add them to the broth. Add the shrimp and turn off the heat. Shrimp gets too tough very quickly, and will cook even when it is just sitting in the warm broth.
  5. Put 1 lime's juice into the bottom of the bowls you will serve the soup in. Crush chili pepper and add to the bowl. Scoop the shrimp and liquid into the serving bowls. As soon as you add the liquid to the serving bowl, you will see that the broth becomes cloudy because of the lime juice. Add the nam prig pow. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
  6. A bit of caution: Thai chile peppers can be very hot. If you think Mexican or Creole food is hot, it is nothing compared how hot Thai food can be! Therefore, take a small sip at a time at first. Add some fish sauce and/or lime juice if it tastes bland.
  7. Serve a bowl of steamed rice on the side, if desired to suppresss the heat.

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Last updated: October 12, 2010