Tom Yum

Tom Yum is a staple dish in Thailand.
A simple dish that focuses on fresh, high quality ingredients.

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Like many dishes, Tom Yum has changed over the years and grown to have many variations.
One of the newest, and most popular, is Tom Yum with milk.
Nobody is really sure how or when this tradition started, only that “The Foreigners love it”  … Or so I was told when I asked a street vendor near my apartment. But she is right. We do love it.
Or at least, I do. It’s a bowl full of flavour and the added milk gives the soup a creamy texture making it just that little bit more filling. It tastes amazing and can be eaten as a stand alone dish or with rice.

Thai food has an intricate pairing of spice and flavour that is so very well balanced in (almost) every dish, and I have always wondered if it was as difficult to make as it seems. So I took to the Internet to see if I could find Thai food for beginners, which is where I found Leela @ SheSimmers.

Leela recommends Tom Yum as one of the first dishes you should make when learning to cook Thai dishes, as it is simple and captures the true essence of Thai flavours. It is also, supposedly, one of the easiest dishes to make, with many people claiming it’s like making a pot of tea, but instead of infusing tea leaves to water, you’re infusing spices to broth.
I decided to put this to the test and see if making Tom Yum really is as easy as a cup of tea.

Tom Yum is dish of few ingredients, because of this you need to ensure your ingredients are fresh and good quality.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of chicken broth.
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 8 one-inch slices of lemon grass
  • 8 thin slices of galangal
  • mushrooms – oyster or button work best.
  • 2 tablespoons of Nam Prik Pao (chilli jam).
  • 1/4 cup lime juice.
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce.
  • 1/4 cup coriander (cilantro)
  • 4 fresh chillies.
  • 1 cup milk (or half and half)
  • Chicken (or prawns – up to you!).

There are people all over the Internet that say to use substitutes for the ingredients that you cannot find, such as lemon leaves instead of kaffir lime leaves, or ginger instead of galangal, but I want you guys to promise me that you wont do that, because it’s not the same, your taste buds deserve better and you can find all of these ingredients in your local supermarket, although you may have to visit a asian import store for galangal.

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First off you want to get your broth nice and warm.
Pop a saucepan on the hob over a medium heat add your stock and bring to a gentle boil.

Whilst your broth is warming, prepare your ingredients to the specifications above.
You can cut the mushrooms however you like them, but I recommend that the chicken is cut into thin slices as this reduces the cooking time and helps prevents the other ingredients from over-cooking. Chillies are a tricky little spice, especially when you have to take the seeds out yourself. But do not fear! I have a trick. Slice a line in the chilli from top to bottom, ensuring you don’t go through the other side. In a bowl of water run your finger along the middle to remove the seeds. The water acts as a barrier and stops the seeds from flicking up into your eye… Which is something I wish I hadn’t learnt the hard way!
The kaffir lime leaves are to be left whole, however if you give them a little bash before adding them to the broth it really wakens up the flavour and releases a beautiful citrus aroma.

Once your broth is warmed up, turn the heat down so it no longer boils, but gently simmers.
Add the galangal, lemon grass and lime leaves into the broth.

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Check that the temperature is still simmering then add the fish sauce, crushed chillies, mushrooms and nam prik pao.

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Stir until the nam prik pao is evenly distributed then add the chicken strips into the broth.
Once the chicken is cooked, add the milk and stir.

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Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the coriander.
Season with lime then add a few extra drops of fish sauce, to taste.

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Then enjoy!