Thai Hot and Sour Prawn Soup also known as Tom Yum Goong is a fragrant, spicy and sour soup flavor explosion made with authentic Thai ingredients.
If you like spicy food, you have finally found your match. Thai Hot and sour Prawn Soup packs a big punch of heat. There is absolutely nothing mild about the heat or flavoring aromatics of this recipe. Those little Thai bird chilis might be little but they are quite mighty.
You are going to love Thai Hot and Sour Prawn Soup because its spicy, sour, savory and balanced with a little sweet. Like all Thai recipes, the balance here is key to a delicious soup.
Do you know what Tom Yum Goong means?
In Thai “Tom” means to boil “Yum” is salad as it has some of the same aromatics as a salad. “Goong” means prawns. So loosely translated it is a boiled salad with prawns… LOL. There are a couple different versions of Tom Yum Soup. Sometimes, there will be the addition of coconut milk. If one swaps the out the prawns with fish or chicken, they will have correlated names and the ingredients will differ slightly. Today, we are making a clear broth Tom Yum Goong without coconut milk.
Did you know that certain areas on your tongue have different flavor sensors?
You taste salty on the tip of tongue and edges of the front of your tongue. Sweet sensors are located in the front of your tongue. Sour taste buds are located on the sides of the tongue and the back of your tongue senses bitter. If you take a sip of Thai Hot and Sour Prawn Soup you will initially taste the salty on the tip of your tongue, the lime on the sides and heat just everywhere… The sweet helps to balance to heat and the salty components of this soup. If you love Thai Flavors, be sure to try our Thai Firecracker Shrimp Party Appetizer, Prik Nam Pla and Thai Cuisine recipes.
Traditional Thai Ingredients
There are a handful of ingredients that essential to Thai cooking.
Kaffir Lime leaves – The crushed leaves emit an intense citrus aroma
Lemongrass – culinary and medicinal cooling herb that smells like fresh lemons
Galangal – cooling herb that is very firm and difficult to chop but is very zesty and aromatic – different than ginger
Thai chili peppers – SPICY FIRE
Shallots – aromatic
Fish sauce – adds a deep blend of savory notes to the recipe
Fresh limes – adds a delightful sour note to Hot and Sour Prawn Soup – only add after you turn the heat off.
Exchanges and Substitutions of Thai Ingredients
Fresh limes, fish sauce, shallots and lemongrass are pretty readily available in most places. If you are struggling finding lemongrass, you can also use the squeeze version in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Fresh is always preferred. However, in a pinch, this works well. It is more difficult to locate kaffir lime leaves, galangal and Thai Chili peppers. Many whole foods stores and specialty stores sell kaffir lime leaves online. Some stores sell dried whole kaffir limes too. In a pinch, use the zest of a fresh lime but only add at the end of the cooking process so it does not become bitter.
There really is not a good substitution for galangal. Some people will add fresh grated ginger or ½ amount of dried ground ginger. However, please note that ginger is a warming spice and galangal is a cooling spice so they will create a different flavor profile in your recipe. If you can find Thai Bird chilis, rock on. If not, use the chilis you have access to and enjoy and adjust amount for the Scoville heat index. If all else fails, skip all the additions and just add a huge dose of Thai Red Curry paste and call it a day!
Did you know that you can freeze your fresh Thai herbs and spices?
We absolutely love visiting the Asian Market and getting our fresh traditional supplies. As they always package up way more than you will use for one meal, we freeze the ingredients. Then, just take out of freezer to unthaw as needed. This method works fabulous for kaffir lime leaves, chili, sliced galangal and lemongrass, just to name a few. Check out our post on Essential Thai Herbs and Spices to learn more.
How to prepare kaffir lime leaves for culinary uses?
If you just drop the whole kaffir lime leaves into your soup pot, they will not release any flavor. The best way we have found to get the fragrant oils out of the kaffir lime leaves is to fold in half along the stem and remove the stem. This works like a charm. You may also tear or crush the kaffir lime leaves, if you prefer.
Smart Cook Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, Thailand
We originally posted this recipe in January 2012 after a trip to Chiang Mai. Since then, we have been to Thailand more times than we can count and have made this Thai Hot and Prawn Soup on numerous occasions. If you ever visit Chiang Mai, we had a delightful time at the
Smart Cook Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Their staff is very knowledgeable, and it is well coordinated. Unlike many cooking classes where you stand back and watch, this one you do everything and have your own wok station.
After all…you can only do so many temple tours.
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Thai Hot and Sour Prawn Soup
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 3 stalks lemon grass
(crushed with the back of your knife)
- 6 slices galangal
- 4 kaffir limes leaves torn in half – remove stem
- 1-3 chilies
fresh or dried (crushed if you want them hot)
- 2 tomatoes cut into quarters
- 4 oz mushrooms
shimeji (or mushrooms of choice)
- 1 shallot shallot
cut into quarters
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp brown sugar
or sugar alternative of choice
- 8-10 prawns peeled and deveined (can substitute large shrimp, seafood, tofu, or even chicken if you wish)
- 3 tsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp cilantro (coriander) for garnish - optional
- Boil the chicken stock in a pot, add lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and chilies, cook until boiling.
- Reduce heat to a simmer.
- Add crushed tomatoes, mushrooms and shallot in the pot with a gentle stir. Wait for a few minutes until everything is cooked.
- Season with fish sauce and sugar. Bring soup back up to a boil. Add prawns and lime juice. Turn off heat. Let sit for 10 minutes. The heat of the broth will cook the shrimp. (your shrimp should no longer be translucent, be bright pink and white and look like the letter C) Taste and adjust for your liking. If you want it sourer, add more lime juice. Saltier add more fish sauce. Sweet add more brown sugar or sugar alternative.
- Sprinkle with cilantro (coriander) and its ready to serve. Enjoy!