Tom Yum Goong

tom yum goongSometimes referred to as Thai hot and sour soup, this delicious soup is much more, achieving the Thai ideal of a balance of the five flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and hot. Those essential five flavors come from fish sauce, palm sugar, lime and lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, and chilies. Once rare and exotic in the United States, most of these ingredients are now fairly easy to find in a well-stocked supermarket or in a local Asian food store. Some substitutions are possible for the less common ones. Galangal, kha in Thai, is a rhizome similar to ginger (which may be substituted although with a loss of complexity). If fresh kaffir lime leaves are not available you can use shredded ones from a jar or substitute a bit of lime rind to the soup. Palm sugar has a hint of coconut but light brown sugar will do almost as well. There is no substitute for fish sauce, however, but fortunately it is easy to find. Note that many recipes for tom yum goong start with chicken stock. I agree with many Thai cooks online that this is redundant, so I start by making a soup base using the shrimp shells. Although I strain the soup, in Thailand it would be served unstrained and diners would simply leave the tough pieces of lemongrass and galangal behind.

Serves 2 to 4




1 quart

1 liter

Lemongrass, fresh

1 stalk

1 stalk

Kaffir lime leaves, shredded

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Galangal, sliced

1-inch piece

25-mm piece

Thai chilies

2 or 3 to taste

2 or 3 to taste

Palm sugar

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Fish sauce (nam pla)

2 tablespoons

30 milliliters

Straw mushrooms (optional)

4 ounces (½ can)

100 grams (½ can)

Shrimp, medium

8 ounces

250 grams

Lime juice, freshly squeezed

2 tablespoons (1 lime)

30 milliliters (1 lime)

Green onions,

1 or 2

1 or 2

Cilantro leaves, chopped

a handful

a handful


Remove and set aside the shells and tails from the shrimp. Devine the shrimp as needed and set them aside in the refrigerator. Slice the lemongrass crosswise into 1-inch (25-mm) pieces. Bring the water stock to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the reserved shrimp shells, the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and chilies. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

Return the broth to medium-low heat and add the fish sauce, sugar, mushrooms, and shrimp. Simmer for 10 minutes until the shrimp turn pink. Off the heat stir in the lime juice, green onions, and cilantro. Serve hot.


2 responses to “Tom Yum Goong

  1. sybaritica May 17, 2012 at 18:09

    Are you using fresh Galangal?

  2. Leo Cotnoir May 17, 2012 at 18:59

    Yes, I did. My local Thai market carries it. I also have galangal powder that works if you can not find the fresh product.

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