Tom yum goong translates to an easy and authentic Thai spicy shrimp soup made with lemongrass, galangal, mushrooms, and fish sauce. Yum!
What makes tom yum goong so compelling? The fact that it’s so easy yet tastes so authentic? Its elusive lilt of lemongrass? The sour, puckery smack of tamarind? The warm-your-belly pervasiveness of galangal? The unmistakably forthright—and, let’s face it, slightly funky—flavor of fish sauce? Or how they meld to marvie effect in this exquisitely authentic rendering of an oft-replicated, but rarely-true-to-tradition, Thai soup? Pucker up for a perfectly pitched and traditional tang from Thai chef Tanaporn Tangwibulchai of Thai Market. It’s on the waaaay Upper West Side, it’s where chef Tangwibulchai presides, and it’s what we’re hearing uttered in hushed, nay, reverential tones by those who know Thai food. –David Leite
Why is tom yum goong so popular?
A sour-spicy, sweet-salty, fragrant shrimp soup, tom yum goong is right up there with pad Thai or tom kha for quintessential and perennially favorite Thai foods. An exquisite mix of the hot and tangy flavors, you get a true taste of Thailand in every bowl. Tom yum means, broadly speaking, “boiled salad” which basically defines a highly flavored broth. Goong is the shrimp (or prawn) part although chicken or pork is popular, too.
Tom Yum Goong Soup
- 3 stalks lemongrass green part and root trimmed, remaining section cut into 3 pieces
- 5 lime leaves each torn into 4 pieces
- One (2-inch) piece galangal or ginger sliced crosswise into 6 to 7 pieces
- 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) cold water
- 1 pound medium shrimp peeled and deveined, left whole if small, or roughly chopped if medium or large
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste (you know, the block of brown tamarind found in Asian markets)
- 7 to 10 tamarind tendrils (optional)
- 3 to 15 bird’s eye chile peppers smashed, to taste
- 2 tablespoons nam prik pao (roasted chile paste)
- 1/4 cup sliced button mushrooms
- 4 to 8 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste
- 6 to 12 tablespoons fresh lime juice or to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves for garnish
- In a large pot, bring the lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal or ginger, and water to a boil and then lower the heat to medium. Add the shrimp, tamarind paste, tamarind tendrils (if using), chile peppers, and nam prik pao, and simmer just until the shrimp is cooked through.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with cilantro, and serve. Originally published March 05, 2013
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This tom yum goong soup, due mainly to the tamarind and lime, has a very tangy and slightly sour quality to it. It’s nicely balanced from the saltiness of the fish sauce and the slight bit of sugar. The lemongrass and lime leaves didn’t have a strong presence in the dish, but undoubtedly added to the overall flavor. Since this is a very brothy soup, it’s really more of an appetizer than a meal.
It comes together quickly and is very straightforward and simple to make once you’ve all of the ingredients, some of which may take a bit of searching to find. I didn’t care for the raw mushrooms, which don’t have a chance to cook since they’re added at the end. I’d rather panfry the mushrooms first, or use dehydrated shiitakes in the future, which would add a nice earthiness to the soup.
To make this a meal, I think the addition of some grated carrots, fresh spinach, and perhaps Asian dumplings would be welcome without distracting from the wonderful depth of the tangy, salty, and slightly spicy notes.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I give this tom yum goong soup high marks for the hot and sour flavor I love, and for a pretty quick turnaround. I used ginger in place of the galangal, but if lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, tamarind paste, or roasted chile paste are hard to come by, there are no good substitutes and therefore there’s not much point in making this otherwise delicious soup.