Tom Yum Goong: Thai Hot & Sour Soup with Shrimp

Tom Yum Goong Close-upI have always loved the folk story about stone soup.  Hungry travelers arrive at a town whose inhabitants all turn down their requests for food.  In response, the resourceful travelers build a fire and set a pot filled with water and a stone upon it.  The townspeople, curious to see what the travelers are doing, venture out of their homes to ask what they are making with only a stone and water.

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The travelers wax poetic about the deliciousness of stone soup and then hint at how much better it is with just a little carrot, some potato, and, if there were any to spare, a stalk of celery.  The stingy townspeople are lured into parting with small quantities of ingredients and eventually, through everyone in the town contributing something small, a delicious soup is made that feeds a village.

DSC_0430Whenever I make stock, I feel like I’m making stone soup.  Water and bones with the addition of heat conjure up a flavorful broth and from seemingly nothing comes something.

While my shrimp stock for Tom Yum Goong has more than just two ingredients the resulting golden broth is just as magical.  Just like with last week’s recipe for jambalaya, I place the shells from peeled shrimp in a pot and cover them with cold water.  This time however, I add small amounts of traditional Thai ingredients to the pot to make a broth redolent of citrus, shrimp, and garlic.

The fragrant broth, which comes together in about 20 minutes, makes a delicious foundation for my version of Tom Yum Goong.   Although, from the smells alone, you might be tempted to stop preparing this classic hot and sour soup in favor of just slurping up the stock.

Tom Yum Goong

Tom Yum Goong – Printer Friendly Recipe
(Hot & Sour Soup with Shrimp)
Serves 4

While some well-stocked grocery stores may carry many of these ingredients, the Kaffir lime leaves, Asian shallots, Nam Prik Pao, and Thai chilies will most likely require a trip to your local Asian grocery store. While I think it’s worth hunting down all of these ingredients for an authentic soup, regular shallots may be substituted for the Asian shallots.   Note that Thai chilies are very, very hot. I like adding them at the end for the heat they bring to this soup, but would advise against eating the chilies themselves unless you truly enjoy spice!

12 ounces (31-40 count) shell-on shrimp
3 large fresh lemongrass stalks
8 Kaffir lime leaves, divided
4 small Asian shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
6 cups cold water
1 (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed, halve or quarter if large
4 tablespoons nam prik pao (Thai roasted chili paste)
4 Thai chilies, stemmed and halved
5 small green onions, ends trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced
Juice from 1 lime
2 tablespoons fish sauce

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shells in a medium saucepan and place the peeled and deveined shrimp in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Trim the lemongrass stalks and remove the tough outer layer. Roughly chop and add the lemongrass with 4 of the Kaffir lime leaves, the Chinese shallots, smashed garlic, and cold water to the saucepan with the shrimp shells. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain the stock, discarding the shells, lemongrass, lime leaves, shallots, and garlic cloves and return the strained stock to the saucepan.

Return the stock to a boil and whisk in the nam prik pao and add the straw mushrooms. Stir in the fish sauce and shrimp and cook, simmering, until shrimp are just cooked through. Add the green onions, chilies, lime juice, remaining 4 Kaffir leaves, and fish sauce.   Taste the soup and adjust seasonings as needed.   Pour soup into bowls and serve immediately.

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