Tom Yum Soup with Shrimp, also known as tom yum goong, is easy to make when you have a few key ingredients like Thai chilies, lemongrass, lime leaves, and fish sauce.
It is sour and tangy, and the shrimp flavor comes from frying the shrimp shells and making a quick stock from them. This isn’t always a traditional Thai method, but I think it gives the broth a lot of flavor and depth.
How is Tom Yum Soup made?
Thai soup called tom yum is sour. It is usually made with shrimp called “Tom Yum Goong,” or tom yum soup with shrimp. Today, we’re making that!
Fragrant herbs and spices, like galangal, lemongrass, makrut (also called “kaffir”), lime leaves, and Thai bird’s eye chilies, are used to flavor the broth.
Thai chili paste, which has shrimp paste, can also be added to soups made with shrimp. I put it in the “optional” column because it isn’t always added. Fish sauce adds saltiness and umami, and fresh lime juice is added after cooking to keep the flavor fresh and tart.
Let’s go over each one in turn:
- Lemongrass: Lemongrass is an ingredient that is becoming easier to find, even in some big grocery stores. I can always find it fresh in the Northeast in Chinese grocery stores. It’s usually sold in bundles of three or four stalks. The best ones will have bright yellow-green stems and don’t have too many brown spots or dried parts. You don’t have to use all the lemongrass you buy at once. You can peel off the dry, tough outer layers, cut them into smaller pieces, and freeze them for later use.
- Thai Bird’s Eye Chilies: These little hot peppers come in red and green, and we’ve found that they’re pretty easy to find at Asian markets. They usually come in big packs, so you can freeze what you don’t use. We put them in the freezer whole and pulled them out as needed.
- Makrut lime leaves, also called kaffir lime leaves, are smooth dark green leaves that smell strongly of citrus. To make this soup, you’ll need a small handful of leaves. Even though I have seen fresh lime leaves in some big Chinese grocery stores, this is a more complex ingredient to find. Great if you can buy them new. Use some of them in this recipe, and put the rest in the freezer. I believe these are already frozen from the Asian market near us. Note that we call lime leaves “makrut” instead of “kaffir,” which some people may find offensive.
- Galangal: It can also be hit or miss to find fresh galangal. But you might find it more often in the freezer section of an Asian grocery store. Put any galangal that you don’t use in the freezer. (You can also cut it into pieces before putting it away, so you can take a few out when you need them.)
- Thai Chili Paste (Nam Prik Pao): Fried chilies, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste, and sugar are used to make Thai chili paste. I’d say it’s sweeter than spicy, and it balances out the tart and spicy flavors of the soup while giving it more shrimp flavor. You can find it in the section of an Asian market that sells condiments. Look for it near things like shrimp paste, laksa paste, and other Southeast Asian ingredients.
- Fish Sauce: These days, fish sauce is a pretty common ingredient. Some say it smells terrible, but it gives this soup a lot of flavor and salt, so we don’t add any more salt. If you can find it, we like the Red Boat brand.
- Whole Shrimp: This recipe calls for entire shrimp with their heads still on for the best results. The authorities have a lot of flavors. You can also use shell-on shrimp and the shells to make the stock if you don’t feel comfortable handling whole shrimp or can’t get them. The taste of shrimp will be less intense.
As you can see, we’ve talked a lot about freezing things that smell good. Find out how to freeze food, so it doesn’t waste (and you always have them on hand).
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 8 ounces large or jumbo shrimp, cooked and whole (heads and shells on)
- 3 cups liquid
- 2 cups of chicken stock with less salt
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- Three little shallots
- 1 cilantro stem
- 1 inch of galangal (cut into 6 slices)
- 5 roughly torn makrut lime leaves
- 1-2 Thai bird’s eye chilies
- 4 ounces of oyster mushrooms or beech (shimeji) mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Thai chili paste, 2 teaspoons (nam prik pao, optional)
- 2 spoonfuls of fish sauce
- 3 tbs. fresh lime juice
- Remove the heads and peel the shrimp. Keep the meat separate from the shells or heads.
- Over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok. Add the shrimp shells and heads. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes until the shells turn bright and deep orange.
- Add 3 cups of water and turn the heat to low—cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. With a filter, remove the shells from the stock, and add the chicken stock.
- Take the lemongrass and cut off the dry, reedy part halfway up the stalk. Then, cut the bottom off. Peel off the complex outer layers to get to the soft center. Use a mallet or a heavy rolling pin to break the lemongrass.
- Cut the smashed lemongrass stalk into about 2 inches (5 centimeters) long pieces and add to the pan broth. Toss in some shallots, cilantro stem, galangal, lime leaves, and Thai chilies.
- Cook it for 10 minutes while covered in low heat. After 10 minutes, remove the herbs and aromatics you don’t want to eat with a fine-mesh strainer, though it is customary in Thailand to leave them in.
- Then, after 5 more minutes of simmering, add the mushrooms. Mix the fish sauce, sugar, and Thai chili paste. Incorporate the chili paste into the soup by stirring it thoroughly.
- Last, add the shrimp and let them cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on how big they are, until they are just done.
- Pour the hot tom yum soup into your serving bowl and add the lime juice. (The lime juice shouldn’t be heated. You want to keep the fresh taste of it.)
- Add cilantro leaves as a garnish and serve right away.