I love Thai food and it is really one of my favorite cuisines because the food is hot, spicy and tangy – the lemongrass smell is so therapeutic for me and thus nothing like a Tom Yum chicken soup when you are feeling a little under the weather. Cook and slurp this delicious soup when its steaming hot and all your ailments will go away ! Believe me, this chicken soup will really make you feel better by clearing your sinuses if you have a cold.
I first had this soup about 10 years ago – my first experience of Thai food. This place was really a very nondescript joint in a plaza close to our apartment complex and my husband and I had once bumped into it by chance during one of our evening strolls. But that first experience of having that steaming hot and spicy soup served in a huge pot , is something that I can still distinctly remember. As I had the soup, I just instantly fell in love with that flavor of lemongrass and kaffir lime although I did not know at that time what those were. So thus began my foray into the thai cuisine world and over the years I have had this soup in numerous places but I still feel that the one served in that small joint was really the best. I have tried over the years to create this soup at home and now after numerous attempts, I feel like I have finally come pretty close to that original one. Sadly that joint went out of business many years ago or I would surely have gone back to get the recipe from the owner!
Here’s my recipe. This will make about 4 servings. You need ‘tom yum’ paste for this one which you can easily find in any asian grocers or even any american supermarkets in the international foods aisle. The lemongrass in this paste really gives this soup the distinct smell and flavor. Coconut milk is also one other key ingredient and I will always recommend using fresh coconut milk over canned. Please see the glossary on this site where I have shown how to extract coconut milk from fresh coconut.
Ingredients: 1/2 pound of boneless chicken thigh pieces, cleaned and cut into small thin pieces (about 1/2 inch thick and 1 inch long) 10-12 uncooked shrimp (medium size), shells removed 2 medium size tomatoes, chopped into big chunks (roughly 1 inch) 1 medium red onion (chopped into 1 inch chunks) 1 inch by 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped into very thin round slices 6 medium size garlic cloves, chopped into half 1 medium hot green chilly pepper ( you can omit this if you want to keep it mild or use 2-3 if you want extra spicy) Tom Yum paste - 2 tbsp 1 tsp red chilli powder (optional) 3-4 dried kaffir lime leaves tamarind - a small 1/2 inch ball , soaked in 1/2 cup water 4 cups of water 1 cup of coconut milk(fresh or canned) 1 tbsp fresh lime juice salt - 1 tsp (per taste)
Wash the chicken pieces and marinate them in 1 tbsp of tom yum paste (reserve 1 tbsp paste for later in the recipe). Toss the chicken pieces into a microwave safe glass bowl with a little bit of water (about 1/4 cup) and cook for about 10 minutes until the chicken pieces are well-cooked.(If you have sensor cook or auto cook in your microwave, you could use that setting or you can also just cook the chicken on the stove). Leave the chicken pieces to cool.
Meanwhile, take a large pot and boil 3 cups of water in it. When the water starts boiling, add the red onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chillies, the kaffir lime leaves , the red chilli powder (if you are adding it) and the 1tbsp of tom yum paste. Cover with a lid and let t cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
Next add the shrimp to the pot and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Next take the chicken pieces and try to shred them a little bit using your hands ( so that they are medium size pieces to eat in a soup). Add the chicken pieces into the pot along with the chicken stock. Next take the soaked tamarind ball and mash the ball with your hands to get the tamarind pulp. Strain this through a strainer (to get any seed and fibrous pulp out) and pour the thin tamarind pulp into the pot.
Next add the 1 cup of coconut milk and stir slowly for 1 minute on low flame. Do a taste test and add salt per your taste. Put the heat off and finally add the 1 tbsp of lime juice and stir well. Enjoy the soup while its hot. You can eat this with plain white rice or a piece of fresh french bread. Tom Yum is just Yum!