Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup (Tom Yum Goong)

Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup

This typical Thai soup is addictive.  I love the contrast of flavors and it’s adaptability.  The seasoning paste is essential to the authentic flavor of this soup.  If you have a mortar and pestle, use them to make the paste.  Otherwise, I’m sure a blender will work just fine for making the seasoning paste.

As always, I don’t follow the recipe exactly.  When I make this soup I substitute rehydrated shiitake mushrooms for the canned straw or white mushrooms the recipe calls for.  I also add a handful of rehydrated black fungus, thinly sliced.  The black fungus (also known as cloud ears) adds an unique crunch and texture to the soup.  I don’t always add the sugar or tomatoes to the recipe.  I have a hard time finding fresh galanga (a member of the ginger family), so I just add a few slices of the dried (or frozen) and fished them out of the soup (along with the lemongrass) right before serving.  Additionally, I usually skip the step of browning the shrimp shells in the oil and simmering them in the broth.  I don’t feel that step adds enough of another dimension of flavor to make it worth it.

hot and sour shrimp soup

To make this soup a more substantial meal, I serve the soup over rice noodles or pasta.

Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup (Tom Yum Goong)

2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon ground chili paste
1 fresh red chili, any kind (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve the shells)
5 cups homemade, unsalted or canned low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces and bruised with the back of a knife
3 thin slices galanga
3 kaffir lime leaves, cut into thirds
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup canned straw mushrooms or sliced white mushrooms
2 red ripe tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
10 fresh Thai basil leaves
5 fresh cilantro springs, chopped

seasoning paste

Place the garlic, shallot, chili paste, chili, cilantro, and peppercorns into a mortar and pound into a paste.

seasoning paste 2

Heat the oil in a soup pot over moderate heat.  Add the shrimp shells and brown until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the spice mixture to the pot an stir until fragrant, about 2 seconds.  Add the chicken stock and let simmer 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the shells and discard. Add the lemongrass, galanga, lime leaves, fish sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms, and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add the shrimp and cook until almost done, about 2 minutes. The shrimp will continue to cook in the hot broth.  Remove from heat and add the lime juice, basil, and cilantro.  Serve piping hot.

Recipe source:  The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking by Mai Pham (Prima Publishing, 1995).

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