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Thai hot-and-sour mushroom soup (Tom yam het)

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Tom yam soup is the most popular an iconic of Thai soups, served in every restaurant and every household. The origins of the soup are unknown due to the Thai culture of verbally passing down history and recipes, but it is thought to have originated in Central Thailand around the Chao Praya River. The word "Tom" literally translates to "boil" and refers to the technique of preparing the soup, and "Yam" means "lao and Thai spicy and sour salad". The name literally means boiled spicy and sour salad. The most popular version of the soup is with shrimp, "goong", but there is every variation of the soup available including this delicious vegan version.

The essential ingredients for any tom yam soup are lemongrass, Thai chilies, shallots and limes, but other ingredients can be used for souring like green mangoes or tamarind. Other ingredients can include galangal, coconut milk for a creamier version, meat of your choice, chicken, fish, pork or beef, and vegetables of your choice. The variations are limitless, but they all stick close to the core of this soup, spicy, tart and delicious. As a note, the original shrimp version is a bright red color because of the red chilies and the fatty juices of the Chao Praya River shrimp heads.

This version stays very true to the core of the soup. The broth is clear and an amazing pop of flavors spiced with the chilies and tart from the lime juice. It will make your mouth pucker and your lips burn. The mushrooms add a wonderful deep flavor that compliment the soup and make it rich in flavor. This is that light and beautiful soup that you make again, and again.

This is a thin cookbook, filled with vegan recipes that are outstanding. Super simple recipes from traditional salads, fried foods, noodles and curries, like this one, make this my go to cookbook for vegetarian Thai cuisine. I seriously cannot believe that I have not posted a recipe from here prior to this one.

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.


For the nam prik pow sauce

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 shallots, chopped

3-4 Thai red chilies, chopped, or to taste

2 tablespoons sugar

Salt, to taste

2-3 tablespoons water, or as needed

2 tablespoons oil

For the soup:

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons nam prik pow sauce

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water

2 1-inch lemongrass stems

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 cup mushrooms, quartered

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 cup peas, frozen ok

Juice of 1/2-1 lime, or to taste

1 kaffir lime leaf

Salt, to taste

Thai basil or cilantro, minced, to garnish

To make the nam prik sow sauce:

Add the garlic, shallots, chilies, sugar and salt to a small blender with minimal amount of water. Purée to a thick paste, you do not want this too runny. Set aside.

Any remaining paste can be frozen or kept in the fridge for 1 week.

To make the soup:

Heat the oil in a large soup pot and add the paste and sauté on medium heat till the liquids are evaporated and the paste fries in the oils that are releases. The paste must smell aromatic and the garlic should be cooked.

Add the stock/water and bring to a simmer adding the lemongrass, soy sauce, mushrooms, carrots and peas. Simmer gently for 10-12 minutes till the mushrooms are cooked but not mushy, they should maintain some texture.

Take off the heat and add the lime juice, kaffir lime leaf and salt. Mix in and allow the lime leaf to soak for 2 minutes infusing the soup with its aroma. Remove the kaffir leaf and set aside. Taste and adjust for salt, tartness with lime juice, and the aromas of kaffir lime leaf. If the kaffir lime leaf has not infused the soup, soak for another 2-3 minutes and remove.

Serve hot garnished with minced Thai basil or cilantro.

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