Thai-Oh-My! Part 4: Tom Yum Goong

I know, I know. You’re probably wondering what the heck a goong is.

The answer is shrimp, but there’s so much more to this dish than just shrimp. Tom Yam (or Yum, depending on whose recipe you read) soup is typically served as a main course, and there are other variations – Tom Yam soup with mushrooms, chicken, tofu… whatever tickles your fancy. The broth for this soup is traditionally flavoured with lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. These ingredients are needed for about a bazillion other Thai recipes too, so I figured it’d be ok to buy a big bag of the dried leaves. It was the only size available and I think it was about $3 – a worthwhile investment in my opinion.

There’s quite a process involved in seasoning the broth if you want to do it the ‘proper’ way. To make it really tasty, Thai chefs will cook the meat or seafood in the in the water (or soon-to-be broth) along with the galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and season to taste later with fish sauce. I totally cheated and used cooked shrimp, which I threw in near the very end, simply to heat them through. I also used a low-sodium vegetable broth as my base, but apart from this there were no more shortcuts.

One other incredibly crucial ingredient in Tom Yam soup is nam prik pao. You may remember that I mentioned this in Part 1 of this series.

(Source: SheSimmers)

After spending an extraordinary amount of time pacing up and down the pastes aisle at the Asian supermarket, and reading the ingredients on 60 or so different jars, I grabbed one that I was pretty certain would do the trick. The above brand wasn’t available, but this is what I found:

As I mentioned earlier in the series, this was one of my absolute favourite stir fry ingredients when I lived at home in Bahrain, and I’ve yet to even seek it out since moving back to Canada. Needless to say, I was excited about this reunion. If you haven’t tried it, please, please go out and find some. It’s a lovely sweet-n-spicy blend of chilies, garlic, and shrimp paste, and it’s what creates the reddish-orange layer on the top of Tom Yum soup. Put it in your favourite stir fry, mix it into your rice, or anywhere you might use a spread (a sandwich perhaps?) Of course, let me know what you think – unless you’re vegan or vegetarian, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! Just know that a little goes a long way. Oh I digress…. Back to the soup. How about the recipe?

Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp)

by Angela

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 25 mins

Keywords: boil stovetop soup/stew lunch dairy-free gluten-free low-fat nut-free soy-free shellfish vegetables Thai

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 2 cups raw or pre-cooked shrimp, with tails on
  • 2 large stalks of lemon grass, sliced thinly on diagonal
  • 1 x 900mL carton low sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 thin slices fresh galangal
  • 3 dried kaffir lime leaves
  • 5 small Thai chilies, left whole or chopped (leave them big enough to be able to spoon out later)
  • 2 tbsp roasted chili paste in soybean oil (this is a paste known as nam prik pao in Thailand)
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, washed sliced in half or quarters
  • 2 cups small Thai eggplants, cut into halves or quarters
  • 3 spring onions, sliced diagonally, white and light green parts only
  • 1/2 cup cilantro sprigs
  • fish sauce, to taste
  • lime juice, to taste


Cut the bottom rough piece off of the lemongrass stalks and pull away the outer layers. Use a sharp knife to cut long diagonal pieces, up to the point where the stalk begins to separate into grass blades.

Put the lemongrass slices in a large pot with the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Simmer for 5 more minutes before adding the chilies. Keep in mind that the longer the chilies are left in the broth, the spicier it will be. You can leave them whole if you prefer less heat (this also makes them much easier to remove from the broth later), or chop them into pieces.

Let the broth simmer for 3-5 more minutes, tasting every so often to be sure it isn’t getting too spicy for your preferences, then remove the chilies.

Chop the eggplants and mushrooms, then toss them into the pot. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chili paste (nam prik pao). Cover it with a lid and cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the spring onions and pull the cilantro off of the stems. Reserve the light green parts of the spring onion, as well as a few tablespoons of cilantro leaves for garnishing.

Stir the shrimp, spring onions and cilantro. Taste the broth and add a little lime juice and/or fish sauce if desired. (Fish sauce adds saltiness, so if your broth is already salted, you shouldn’t need much.)

If your shrimp are raw, allow them to cook over medium heat in the pot for a few minutes or until opaque. If they are already cooked, add them to the pot and cook only long enough for them to become hot – about 30-60s maximum.

Remove the pot from the stove. Remove the kaffir lime leaves and any visible bits of galangal and lemongrass. Depending on how strong your broth has become, you may want to leave some lemongrass and galangal in it, in order to allow the flavours to keep developing. Just be careful not to eat these things when you sit down to enjoy the soup because they don’t taste very nice on their own!

Ladle into bowls and serve topped with remaining spring onion slices and cilantro, as well as lime wedges on the side if desired.

Click here to print the recipe.

So there you have it. Lots of ingredients, but it’s so worth it in the end! Even though I didn’t flavour the broth ‘properly’ and used a store-bought carton instead, it was still packed with flavour. If I were to make this soup again, I’d make the following changes:

  • Remove the tails from the shrimp before tossing them into the soup. They look pretty but they really do get in the way when you’re hungry and just want to eat!
  • Remove more of the lemongrass bits before serving. These actually helped to strengthen the taste of the broth over time which was nice, but like the shrimp tails, they got in the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to figure out how I can incorporate nam prik pao into every meal I eat today. Have a good one!

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