Tom Yum Soup

Tom Yum Soup

Sharing cooking tips and history of Traditional Central Style Tom Yum Soup

Tom Yum is a food of the central region of Thailand. There are soups from other part of Thailand  that is similar to Tom yum. But there is a little bit different in term of using ingredients and flavors. Tom Yum in Thai Cooking is a Main Course, but  Western people mostly considering Tom Yum Soup as an appetizer. At my Cooking School in Khaolak I teach Tom Yum Soup as an appetizer.

Tom Yum Soup is my favorite dish. Because the food tastes are very balance, sour, salty, spicy, sweet, concentrated in the same dish. The fresh Thai ingredients such as galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime spice up this dish. When swallowing the soup, you will feel special than any other soup in this world because of the flavors of herbs, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves that are combined together.

There are two types of Tom yum soup which are clear soup and creamy soup. The creamy soup is different from clear soup we use add coconut cream or evaporated milk and chili oil. For my recipe I make clear soup at Pakinnaka Thai Cooking School in Khaolak I use sea bass and creamy soup with sea , farm prawn or river prawns.. However, we don’t have any fixed rules for making Tom Yum. It depends on the preferences of the person eating it. Most of us tend to make Tom Yum with Seafood, but for some Thai people who don’t like Seafood, they cut up whole chicken in to small pieces or pork knuckle huck

There is a unique technique that my cooking teacher when I was in her Thai cooking class from Bangkok use is to season the soup in the serving bowl which mean adding lime juice, fresh grinded chilli , fish sauce and spring onion and coriander. David Thompson world famous Thai Chef who own Mitchelin star restaurant, Aksorn Restaurant

I have learnt is to season the soup in the serving bowl. This way, the lime juice is never boiled and thus remains vibrantly sour. As with all Tom Yum, the seasoning is hot, sour and salty, although this can be adjusted to suit individual preferences.

For the history of this type of food There is no conclusive evidence regarding the origins of this food. But Acharn Sujit Wongthet wrote about Tom Yum Kung saying, “When rice was imported from India along with the Andaman sea trade and the Brahmin-Buddhist religion, “Rice dishes” changed and began to include various types of “curry sauces”. Both thick curry with coconut milk in the Indian style and water curry in the Chinese style.

In the Pathanukrom of making sweet and savory dishes like Farang and Siam (1898), there is a recipe for Tom Yum Goong Song Khrueng. Which seems very different from the current Tom Yum Kung, stating “…boiled and shredded pork weighing three baht. Grilled leaf fish then smashed and shredded for two baht Grilled and dried fish, then shred for two baht Pickled garlic, peeled, meat removed, sliced ​​three baht Peel the cucumber and slice it three baht.

Madan Soi Sam Baht One baht of chili peppers, cut One baht of fine coriander…” As for the method of making, it says “Take fresh shrimp and boil it with seawater. Add fish sauce weighing two baht. Boil until the shrimp meat is cooked… scoop out thirty-eight baht of shrimp boiling water and put it in a bowl. Then peel the shrimp, leaving only the meat, shredded, weighing four baht.

One baht of pickled garlic juice Seven baht fish sauce Six salungs of sugar Put it in the shrimp boiling water. Then put the weighed item in as well…if it’s not sour. You can add more lemon juice. When the associate is good, sprinkle with chili peppers and coriander. is usable”

As for the book Khong Sawoey (1964), the recipe from Mom Rajawongse Kitinadda Kitiyakara is similar to the Tom Yum Kung recipe known today.

Tom yum or tom yam is a family of hot and sour Thai soups. The name “tom yam” is composed of two Thai words. Tom refers to the boiling process, while yam means ‘mixed’.



The soup base depends on the exact sub-type but is generally water, coconut milk, or chicken or other broth.

Various aromatic ingredients are sliced, roughly pounded, and simmered to extract their flavor. These include fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, chilis, shallots, and garlic. For shrimp-based soups, shrimp shells and heads may also be simmered, to extract their flavor. These ingredients are often then removed as their flavor is now extracted and many aren’t edible. However they may be left in, as an aid to presentation.

Alternatively, commercial tom yum paste may be used. This is made by crushing all the herb ingredients and stir frying in oil, then adding seasoning and other preservative ingredients. The paste is bottled or packaged and sold around the world.

Vegetables are then added, such as onion and tomato. In modern popular versions the soup may also contain mushrooms—usually straw mushrooms or oyster mushrooms.

Various meats are added next, commonly fish, shrimp, mixed seafood, pork, or chicken.

When the meat is cooked, final flavorings whose taste is destroyed by heat, such as fish sauce and lime juice, are added. For most varieties a paste called nam phrik phao  is also added, made from shrimp, chilis, shallots, and garlic. This imparts sweet, salty, and spicy tastes.

Yet other ingredients may also be used, depending on the exact variety of tom yam, such as evaporated milk.

The soup is often topped with a generous sprinkling of fresh chopped coriander leaves, and may be served over a serving of rice.


Selected types

Tom yam kung maphrao on nam khon, as served in Uttaradit, Thailand

Ready-to-use bundles of lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, and, for chicken tom yam, also turmeric, are sold at Thai markets

Tom yam nam sai , clear broth tom yam soup

Tom yam nam khon  is a more recent variation from the 1980s. common with prawns as a main ingredient, evaporated milk or non-dairy creamer powder[8] is added to the broth as a finishing touch.

Tom yam kathi– coconut milk-based tom yum—this is often confused with tom kha kai (“chicken galanga soup”), where galangal is the dominant flavour of the coconut milk-based soup.

Tom yam kung– the version of the dish most popular among tourists, is made with prawns as the main ingredient. The dish originated during the Rattanakosin Kingdom.

Tom yam pla is a clear fish soup that was traditionally eaten with rice. It used to be the most widespread form of tom yam before mass-tourism came to Thailand, for fresh fish is readily available almost everywhere in the region’s rivers, canals and lakes as well as in the sea. Usually fish with firm flesh that doesn’t crumble after boiling is preferred for this type of soup.

Tom yam gai  is the chicken version of the soup.

Tom yam po taek or Tom yam thale is a variant of the soup with mixed seafood, like prawns, squid, clams and pieces of fish.

Tom yam kung maphrao on nam khon , a version of prawn tom yum with the meat of a young coconut and a dash of (coconut) milk.

Tom yam kha mu made with pork leg. These require a long cooking time under low fire.


Other spicy and sour soups

Less well known outside Thailand is tom khlong, a spicy sour soup where the sourness does not derive from lime juice but through the use of tamarind.Tom som  are soups that are also very similar to tom yum but most often do not contain lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves. Depending on the type of tom som, the acidity can be derived from lime juice or from the use of tamarind.


Outside Thailand


Tom yum, locally spelled as tomyam, is very well-received among Malaysians since its introduction around the 1980s.The cuisine is now considered a must-have on most restaurant menus in Malaysia, especially the peninsular states. As of 2018, the popularity of Tom yum and other Thai dishes had brought employment to at least 120,000 south Thai cooks, working restaurants mainly in Selangor state and the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, and owning 5000 to 6000 Thai restaurants throughout the country.

While, Traisulee Traisoranakul, deputy government spokesperson, says the soup represents the simplicity of life among rural farming communities along the rivers and canals of central Thailand, where the cuisine is linked to the surrounding nature.

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