Tom Yum

Tom Yum

Tom Yum is a classic Thai spicy and sour soup that is packed with fragrant herbs. “Tom” means “to boil”, while “yum” refers to a mixture of things that tends to be spicy and sour.

We prepared Tom Yum during our Thai Cooking Class in Phuket, and I found it was an incredibly easy soup to make. The key is obviously finding all the ingredients but the actual prep and cooking time is speedy.

My cooking class teacher Kelly introduced us to two versions of Tom Yum: clear or creamy. The clear soup version is the most common and uses a special tom yum chili paste. The creamy version adds evaporated milk but does not have the chili paste. I made the clear type during class but am intrigued to try the creamy one, which would be presumably less spicy.

Tom Yum (recipe courtesy of Kata Thai Cooking Class)

Yields: 1 serving


  • 1-2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised
  • 1-2 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 shallots, smashed
  • 6 thin slices of galangal
  • 2-4 Thai chilies
  • 1 T mushroom, quartered (straw mushrooms are preferred but can also use white button, oyster, or enoki)
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 4 grape tomatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • Your choice of tofu, chicken, shrimp, squid, pork, veggies

For clear soup: 1-2 tsp chili paste
For creamy soup: 2-3 T evaporated milk


First, prepare the broth ingredients which you can place all of them together in a  single bowl.

Cut the lemongrass into 2-3″ pieces. With a mortar and pestle, lightly bruise the lemongrass. Remove and then crush the chilies as well.  For the shallots, smash them using the flat side of a knife. Thinly slice the galangal and quarter your mushrooms.  Fold the kaffir lime leaves in half and then peel to remove the stems.

prepare all the ingredients

In a separate bowl, juice the limes. It helps to massage the limes between the table and your palm to warm them up. Wipe off any excess oil on the peel so it does not mix with the juice when squeezed.

broth ingredients assembled

Now we are ready to make the broth!

Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil, and then add the lemongrass, shallots, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, and Thai chilies.

bring everything to a boil

If you are making the soup with any chicken or pork, add the meat now. Let cook about 80% the way through (couple minutes) and then add the fish sauce, salt and sugar. Next, add the tomatoes and any other vegetable you choose, and boil for another 2-3 minutes. Add the lime juice and chili paste (or evaporated milk for the creamy version).

If you are making the soup with shrimp, add the shrimp after the vegetables and cook only for a few minutes.

Transfer the soup to a serving bowl and serve steamy!

clear tom yum soup

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