A blog about food in Thailand
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How To Make: Tom Yam Kung

Posted date:  November 21, 2006


Tami over at running with tweezers has initiated the first annual Souper Challenge Blog Event, a thinly-veiled threat for all of us foodbloggers to make soup. I don’t really need an excuse to do this, as we eat soup nearly every day in Thailand, and I’ve decided to take part by doing tom yam, the famous sour-spicy soup.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Austin, there are about 80 million recipes for tom yam on the Internet [actually there are 179,000], why do we need another one? It’s true, but if you ask me, I don’t think any of them come close to describing the best way to make this dish. Most tom yam recipes demand that you follow their instructions regarding the specific amounts of the flavouring ingredients to add. In reality, Thai people make tom yam by feel, adding ingredients and tasting continuously until they reach a flavour they like. You’ll probably never see a measuring spoon in a Thai kitchen, but you will see lots of spoons for tasting the broth!

Today we’re going to make make tom yam kung, tom yam with shrimp. I’m choosing this kind because it’s probably the most famous kind of tom yam, and I want to share the method of making a really nice broth. To make tom yam for two people, here’s what you’ll need:


Fresh shrimp (shells and all, not just shrimp meat) 10 or so depending on size
Water, approximately 4 cups
Galangal, a thumb-sized piece, peeled and chopped into big disks
Lemongrass, 3-4 stalks, outer layer removed and bruised
Shallots, 6, peeled
Coriander (cilantro) roots, 4, cleaned well
Fish sauce, to taste
Sugar (if desired), to taste
Straw mushrooms (het faang), 6
Cherry tomatoes, 4
Sawtooth coriander (phak chee farang), 6 leaves
Chilies, to taste
Limes, 2-3, depending on how sour you like your food
Kaffir lime leaves, three, halved

Wash the shrimp well and behead and peel them, reserving the shells and heads. Devein shrimp, butterfly (if desired) and set aside in the fridge. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add shrimp shells and heads. When water reaches a boil again, stir and push on the shrimp shells to extract as much shrimpy goodness as possible.


Reduce heat slightly and let simmer for about five minutes. Strain and discard shrimp shells, reserving water.

In the same saucepan, bring shrimp broth to the boil again and add galangal, lemongrass, shallots and coriander roots. Allow to reach a slight boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add a few drops of good-quality Thai fish sauce and taste. Add more fish sauce until the broth tastes just slightly salty, no more. If you like sugar (as many Thais d0) do the same thing with your sugar at this point, and taste.

While the broth is simmering, prepare your mise en place. Halve your cherry tomatoes, slice your limes, thinly slice your sawtooth coriander:


quarter your mushrooms:


and roughly chop your chilies, grinding and smashing them with the side of a knife when done:


After about 3-4 minutes, when your broth is fragrant, add prawns, mushrooms and tomatoes:


After another 2-3 minutes, when mushrooms are slightly soft and prawns done, squeeze in your lime juice and add your lime leaves:


Again, taste to see how sour it is (this soup should be sour followed by salty, but go for a taste that you like). Add more fish sauce (or sugar) if necessary, tasting all the while, and add your chilies and sawtooth coriander. Stir to combine and remove from heat. You’re done.

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30 Comments for How To Make: Tom Yam Kung

tks 4 yr recipe

your soup looks clear, probably no tamarine added? taste great ?

here in KL lots of tamarine ( assam) and looks orange, some shops actually put too much !

but tomyam soup in KL is mostly disappointing

Hey Austin,

Now I will have to cook up the Malaysian version of Tom Yam Soap. Malaysian Tom Yam doesn’t taste the same, as Tonixe mentioned. They usually cook them with pre-made paste. The best Tom Yam in Malaysia are actually found in Malay stalls.

tonixe: You can add tamarind if you like; it’s simply another method of obtaining a sour taste. However most people nowadays use lime juice; tamarind is used in other kinds of soups.

rasa malaysia: The paste you’re referring to might be nam phrik phao, and could simply be added at the end of my recipe. It’s more or less chilies (and a few other ingredients) fried in oil. I generally prefer tom yam w/out it.

thanks for your recipe, I am also a fan of Tom Yam. I stay in Malaysia and here also got great tom yam. I never been in Thailand so I don’t know how good it is compare to Tom Yam in Thailand. Have you try before ?

I am guy who like to eat Tom Yam, but I am bit confuse, what are the difference between ” tom yam kung” and “tong yam soup” ? is it the same ?

Hey cheers for your recipe. It’s definitely the real Mccoy. I tried it last night and it was great except that the lime juice I used was bitter… next time I will taste the lime juice first before adding it!

Although I am not very good in English, but the recipe you write is easy to understand, thanks !

the recipe you post looks delicious, but some of the ingredient I cannot get in my area i.e. Sawtooth coriander,
any stuff can reply this ?

“tom yam kung” , “tom yam gong” and “tom yam soup” is the same.

thanks for your information, I will try it out with your recipes.

This sounds wonderful! Is there a substitute for galangal that can be found in American supermarkets?

Tom Yum goong = tom yum with prawns.

Tom Yum gai = tom yum with chicken..

Tom Yum moo = tom yum with pork

its different

khop khun ka!
i love tom yum..
penang has many good tom yum stalls, and like rasa lamaysia mentioned, the best are from the malay stalls.

hey, thank you vmuch for this recipe. it’s almost the same as my wife’s. (i’m now away in saudi and looking for tom yam recipe).

i think, galangal is ‘lengkuas’ as it’s the only main ingredient missing from the list and the photo did show ‘lengkuas’…

ery good, but tuck your fingers in when you’re cutting….. you look dangerous!

Hey this recipe is back! Yay! It’s da bomb! So simple and yet kicks ass every time. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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I love to make many different versions of tom yum. I cannot seem to find any recipe for a roasted shrimp or chicken version referred to as “tom khlong.” I’ve noticed this most often seems to be a fish soup. Have you had any experience with a recipe with roasted galangal, shallots, magrood leaves etc? Much appreciated!

[…] Nam-prik Pao (Thai chili paste) has been added as well as Pak Chee Farang as the reference from Austin Bush, an American Photographer who currently resides in Thailand. Pak Chee Farang is known as Sawtooth […]

I live in India and love tom yam soup. Its really great. The best dish I like in thailand.

[…] just there at the small lake. You can’t miss it. Enjoy Bangkok’s probably best tom yam kung (I love the milky variety) and all variations of phad thai […]

Mushrooms are totally wrong for this dish. Don’t you know anything? Twat.

Heyy! i’m a competitive gamer, and i love this recipe, it keeps me awake while gaming at midnightt. thanks

the real thai style, tamarine paste is better than lime because it’s not bitter.
just put small lime in the soup after done to make smell good.


Tom Yam is Spicy Soup
Koong is Shrimp
Tom Yam Koong is spicy soup with shrimp

actually, you can use not only shrimp but also meet, pork, chicken, fish, and etc.

*** mushroom is ok for this soup. don’t be worry.
*** and there are another kind of spicy soup that more delicious than tom yam koong.

very nice!

Best cooking informations.

[…] Nam-prik Pao (Thai chili paste) has been added as well as Pak Chee Farang as the reference from Austin Bush, an American Photographer who currently resides in Thailand. Pak Chee Farang is known as Sawtooth […]

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