Thai Hot and Sour Soup

Thai Hot and Sour Soup

Aromas of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal waft through the dining hall where this lightly sweet, spicy, brothy treasure is served. On my last journey to the small city of Lumnaria in the Lopburi province of Thailand, the family of one of my former students, Fah Vorarittinapap, showed me how rural Thais add a natural layer of sourness with chopped young tamarind leaves. Alas, we don’t grow tamarind in the West, so we use fresh lime juice. If you can’t find head-on shrimp, use stock (seafood or chicken) instead of water for this broth. Whenever you cook shrimp, collect the shells in your freezer. They can be used to enrich stock for soups like this. Just simmer them with the stock for thirty minutes, and then strain. The nuance of flavor they add can make all the difference.–Robert Danhi

Thai Hot and Sour Soup Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 40 M
  • 4 to 6 servings


  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, heads on
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Thai chile jam (nahm prik pow), or store-bought chile paste in soybean oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced cilantro roots, or 1 tablespoon minced stems
  • 4 to 6 Thai bird chiles, stems removed split in half lengthwise
  • 8 cups water, seafood stock, homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
  • 6 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, sliced on diagonal into 3-inch lengths, and lightly bruised with blunt object
  • 3 slices galangal, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 10 Kaffir lime leaves, bruised
  • 2 plum or Roma tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 can (15 ounce can) straw mushrooms, drained (liquid discarded), halved
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (nahm pla)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves


  • 1. Peel the shrimp, leaving tail attached. Quickly rinse the heads and shells and set aside. De-vein the shrimp and refrigerate.
  • 2. Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan or wok over high heat. Add the shrimp heads and shells. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the chile paste, chiles, cilantro stems, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain into a new pot.
  • 3. Add lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves; simmer 5 minutes. Add shrimp, tomatoes, mushrooms, and fish sauce. Bring back to a simmer; cook 30 seconds, until shrimp are just cooked. Remove from heat.
  • 4. Taste and adjust seasoning using the fish sauce and lime juice. Divide the cilantro leaves among the bowls, and then ladle the soup over them. Serve immediately.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

I was excited to try to make this recipe once our Thai international student was finally home with us. The process is tedious, so it is smart to organize all the ingredients and their portions ahead of time, prior to actually cooking. I decided to use a mixture of fish and shrimp stock instead of simply the water. Make sure whatever you use does not have salt added, though. Also, due to the fact that my daughters are not as used to eating food as spicy as Thais are, once I strained the broth, I decided to add two more peppers into a small saucepan, then added some broth and let it simmer while finishing the soup. This was then added to the bowls of my Thai daughter, my husband, and myself. Everyone absolutely loved the soup, filled with the typical Thai tastes of lemon grass, the special lime leaves, etc. My Thai daughter liked it also a lot, and said that it did remind her of the Thai tastes, but not quite the typical Tom Yum soup she is used to from back home. She promised she would do it her way sometime soon so that we could compare. A word of advice… careful with how much fish sauce you add. Make sure to taste the soup prior to adding it, so the soup will not turn out too salty.

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