When I told my sister that we were going to feature some of our dad’s Thai home-cooking on the blog, she enthusiastically said, “Oh Dad makes the BEST tom yum soup!” I think she’s right. I’m hard-pressed to find a better one at any Thai restaurant - with generous pieces of fish, shrimp, and scallops (my favorite). The key to his soup is making sure to get the right balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy - you really do need to taste the soup and adjust the seasonings so that they equally satisfy all four senses. Limes vary in size, acidity and sweetness - so use your tastebuds as your guide and the listed amounts in the recipe as suggestions.
Notes: Thai soups are fragrant and spicy from all the fresh aromatic herbs and chilies. There will be large chunks of galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves in the final soup that are not meant to be eaten, but are there to flavor the soup. You can fish them out before you serve, or do as the Thais do, and just eat around them. Lemongrass, lime leaves (a.k.a. makrut or kaffir lime leaves), and galangal can be found in the produce section of most Asian supermarkets and some well-stocked grocery stores. If you cannot find lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves, you can substitute strips of lime or lemon zest. You can also substitute ginger for the galangal. It will not have same flavor, but the soup will still taste good. Thai fish sauce or nam pla, can also be found in Asian supermarkets or in the Asian section of a well-stocked grocery store.
My dad uses scallops, salmon, and shrimp for the seafood in this soup. You can use any combination of seafood (mussels and other firm-fleshed fish work well) or substitute cut-up chicken.
Read More: The Shared Thai Food
Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4-5 generously
¼ cup cilantro (with stems), finely chopped
1-2 fresh Thai bird chilies or serrano chilies, finely diced
1-2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla), add more or less to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups water
1 inch piece of galangal, sliced into ⅛” pieces
4 makrut lime leaves
2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into 2" lengths
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1” dice
1 shallot, cut into 1” dice
½ pound white button mushrooms, sliced into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
½ pound salmon, cut into 2” pieces
½ pound sea scallops
½ pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Combine cilantro, finely diced chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar into a serving bowl and reserve. Remove outer layer of lemongrass stalk and cut stalk into 2-inch lengths. Using the butt of a kitchen knife, pound and bruise stalks all over.
Pour stock and water into a large pot, add galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and sliced lemongrass; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots and simmer for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add salmon, simmer for 1 minute. Add scallops and simmer for 1 minute. Add shrimp and simmer for 1 minute or until just pink and no longer translucent. (Seafood will continue to cook in the hot broth after removing from heat.)
Ladle into serving bowl containing chili and cilantro mixture, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust lime juice (sour), fish sauce (salty), sugar (sweet), and chilies (spicy) as needed. (The soup should taste equally sour, salty, sweet, and spicy.) Serve immediately.