Tom Yam Gung

Tom Yam Gung

Take fresh prawns, straw mushrooms and stock, add one
part lemongrass, one part lime and one part napalm and
serve – Thailand’s favourite soup is a chilli-laced masterpiece.

Ubiquitous across the Malay Peninsula, tom yam is a fiery palate cleanser that is served everywhere from Thailand and Laos to Malaysia and Singapore. Prawns have been farmed in Thai creeks for centuries, so the dish may have its roots far from the sea, but liberal use of chilli dates tom yam to after the 17th century, when the first ones were transported to Southeast Asia from South America by Portuguese seafarers.


You’ll need
3 cups (750mL) fish or
chicken stock
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and
5 shallots, peeled and thinly
2 stalks of lemongrass, cut
into 2.5cm (1in) slices
4 thin slices of galangal
200g (7oz) straw mushrooms,
sliced lengthways
10 bird’s-eye chillies, cut
3 tbs fish sauce
5 kaffir lime leaves
250g (9oz) raw prawns,
washed, peeled and deveined
Juice from 1 lime
Handful of chopped fresh
coriander (cilantro) leaves to

Cooking Method
1 In a pan or wok, bring the stock to the boil, then add the garlic, shallots, lemongrass and galangal.
2 Add the straw mushrooms, chillies, fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves.
3 Return to the boil for 2–3 minutes, then add the prawns and cook until just done.
4 Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime juice, then stir and serve, garnishing each portion with chopped coriander.

Tasting notes
Floating pools of red chilli oil provide the first warning that something fiery lurks beneath the surface of this seafood soup. Vapours of lemongrass, galangal and lime rise up, promising a visceral tour through the flavours of Southeast Asia. The first sensation is the tang of lime but, almost immediately, the chilli takes control. This is a dish to eat quickly, without pausing, in case the fire proves too powerful to quench. The main ingredients – prawns and mushrooms – are secondary to the complex take-no-prisoners blend of spices and seasonings. Each takes its own moment to shine; some spoonfuls dominated by lemongrass and lime, others by chilli and medicinal notes of galangal. Keep tissues to hand...

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