This delicious soup is on most Thai restaurant menus, from the hole in the wall take out places to fancier eat in establishments. However, has anyone actually been to a really fancy Thai restaurant? Honestly, I have probably had more Thai take out over the years as it travels well, is super tasty, reasonably priced and the ambience has never really made my feel like I had to dine in (not to mention we have way better wine at home). Often found in unassuming store fronts, frequently in strip malls, the decor is almost always the same. . . stark, brightly lit and with walls adorned with travel posters encouraging you to fly to Thailand, Siam or “The Orient”, along with the requisite buddhas and elephant statues. I don’t mean to generalize, as I know there are spectacular haute cuisine Thai restaurants (such as Gaggan and Bo.lan in Bangkok that were featured on the Netflix Series “Chef’s Table”, which are both on my bucket list), but even the fabulous James Beard award winning Arun’s in Chicago, which offers a 9 course gourmet experience is found in a rather austere building. The artwork is many steps above the travel posters, but the lighting is definitely much brighter than most typical fine dining or “date night” spots.
But I digress . . . Tom Yum Goong was probably one of the first things I tried when first introduced to Thai food. We did not have any Thai restaurants in Salem, NH when I was growing up (which I imagine is no longer the case), so my first introduction was shortly after college in Boston. Packed with flavor and the wonderful combination of spicy and sour, I was hooked from the first slurp. Years later I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong and Thailand when Dennis had a business trip to Singapore. Ironically, I had fabulous Thai food at the Chili Club in Hong Kong and fabulous Chinese food in Bangkok at the Peninsula Hotel. The Tom Yum Goong at the Chili Club in Wan Chai was amazing, and probably the best I’ve ever had and the inspiration for mine. I came up with this recipe during our time in Argentina when I was perfecting Thai curry pastes and was craving all those flavors I couldn’t simply call up an order. If you’ve ventured out to source the ingredients for Thai curry pastes, then you will have just about everything you need to make this soup: galangal, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, Thai bird chilies…red curry paste adds heat and fish sauce and lime juice provide the sour. You can probably just order it from your local Thai place, like I can now, but I don’t since I think the fresh flavor of this is so good it’s worth making it.
Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup)
- Stock Pot (5 Quarts or larger)
For the BROTH
- 2 TBSP Canola or Peanut Oil
- Shells & Heads from 2 lbs of Shrimp
- 8 Lemongrass stalks, trimmed (last 6")
- 8 Galagal slices (1/4" thick)
- 12 Kaffir Lime Leaves, spines removed & torn
- 12 Thai Chilies (red or green), stem end cut
- 1 Fresno or Serrano Chili, sliced in half lengthwise
- 8 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 4 Cups Chicken Stock or Broth
- 1 TBSP Thai Red Curry Paste
For the SOUP (4 Servings)
- 6 Cups Broth
- 1 Pound Large Shrimp (U31/35), peeled & deveined (about 8 shrimp per person)
- 8 Ounces Button Mushrooms, cleaned and halved or quartered
- 3 TBSP Fish Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Lime Juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 Cup Cilantro Leaves
- 1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced (optional)
To Make the BROTH
- Heat oil over medium high heat until hot.
- Add shrimp shells and cook until they turn pink, about 2 minutes.
- Add the galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves and chili peppers and give a quick stir.
- Add the stocks and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, partially covered for 15-30 minutes to allow the flavors to steep.
- Strain the broth into another pot, discarding all of the solids. Add the curry paste. At this point, you may either proceed to making the soup, or reserve the broth for later.
To Prepare the SOUP (4 Servings)
- Bring 6 Cups of prepared brother to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer and add mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for 1-2 minutes, covered.
- Add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink.
- Turn off the heat and add the fish sauce and lime juice.
- Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves and fresno chili slices (optional). Serve immediately with lime wedges. YUM!
- If you can’t find head on shrimp, the shells and tails alone are just fine, but using head on shrimp makes for a much more flavorful broth full of umami.
- If you’ve sourced the ingredients for Thai curry pastes, you have the key ingredients for this. If you have access Asian markets, such as the chain H-Mart, you can probably find lemongrass, galangal and Kaffir lime leaves there, otherwise I’ve been able to find them on Etsy when I can’t source them locally.
- I have prepared this recipe for medium spice. If you want more spice, you can add more Thai curry paste, but serving some sliced fresno chilies on the side allows people to personalize to their desired spice.
- My local fish market always has beautiful head on Gulf shrimp, but sometimes I need to call ahead to make sure they have them thawed. They are extra large and pricey, so I usually use the shells to make the broth and use the shrimp for another dish where they are the main dish. I then simply thaw some peeled, deveined shrimp when I want to make the soup.
- My local Thai market has bins of head on shrimp that are much more economical, and are the perfect size for the soup.
- I have a great stock pot called a “Multi-Pot” that has a strainer insert, that is perfect for pasta. It is particularly useful for this, as you can simply lift the strainer insert and retain the broth in the pot (only 1 pot to wash).
- Make it your own! Try other varieties of mushrooms such as shitake, enoki, etc.
- The broth freezes well, so you can make the soup in minutes once thawed.