Tom Yum Soup

by Sherri Koehler on November 7, 2010

Ready to eat!

I love Thai food. The soups, the curries, the stir-fries, the salad rolls, the big fat rice noodles… You get the idea.

I’ve played around with a few favorite dishes at home, including making curry paste from scratch. In addition to some online resources, I’ve had good luck with the cookbook Real Vegetarian Thai for inspiration and guidance on how to achieve a more authentic flavor when cooking at home.

One dish that I make fairly regularly is tom yum soup. Tom kha is more common, particularly if you’re eating out at a Thai restaurant. The big difference between them is the use of coconut milk; tom kha uses quite a lot of it. Although I enjoy some rich coconut milk dishes once in a while, the tom yum is nice to have more often as it is far lighter and lower in calories. This also means you can easily make tom kha soup by using this recipe, reducing the stock by 2 cups, and adding one can of coconut milk.

Kefir Lime Leaves and Lemongrass Stalks

The real key I’ve found is using the right, fresh ingredients: lemongrass, galangal, ginger, Kefir lime leaves, lime juice, fresh coriander (cilantro), and Siam Queen Basil. These flavors are indispensable in most Southeast Asian dishes, and particularly so in Thai dishes. Seek out an Asian market for these or check to see if your market might carry them. I must admit that we’re lucky enough to live near a Southeast Asian market and a very well stocked “regular” market that both carry these items.

The Stuff

  • 5 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 1 oz. Kefir lime leaves (or the juice of 2 additional limes)
  • 2 limes
  • 6 oz fresh galangal
  • 4″ piece of ginger
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (or the equivalent made with bullion)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 small kobucha squash (or other sweet winter squash)
  • 2 crowns broccoli
  • 1 fresh bamboo shoot (or 4 oz. canned; be sure to drain and rinse first)
  • 8 oz tofu (I like to use fried tofu for this dish, sometimes a lemongrass & chili tofu made locally)
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh Siam Queen basil
  • Rice udon-style noodles (optional)
  • salt and ground pepper (preferably white) – to taste

The Making

Kabocha Squash

Pour stock into pot, bring to heat and then reduce to simmer. Chop up the galangal and ginger roughly, about .5″ pieces. Remove woody tops, the bottom, and one outer layer of the lemongrass before chopping into 3″ pieces. Then use flat side of knife to smash open the lemongrass – this is a very important step! Tear up an ounce or so of Kefir lime leaves to release oils. Put galangal, ginger, lemongrass, and lime leaves into the pot with the stock, the juice of one lime, and the halves of the juiced lime. Simmer on lowest heat for at least one hour. Note: This Thai-style stock can be made in large batches and frozen.

While stock is simmering peel and remove seeds from small kobucha squash. Chop into 1″ pieces and set aside. Remove stem from broccoli crowns and reserve for a later dish. Separate crowns into small pieces and set aside. Cut up tofu into 1″ pieces, bite-sized and set aside. Slice bamboo shoot into 1″ pieces, if using fresh and set aside.

After the stock has simmered with the aromatics for at least an hour remove from heat and strain out all the aromatics; discard these or compost them. Return stock to pot, add juice of second lime (and additional limes if you didn’t use the lime leaves), rice vinegar, and squash. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until squash begins to get tender. Add broccoli, bamboo shoot and tofu. Simmer for an addition 5-10 minutes, until broccoli is slightly tender. Add salt and ground white pepper – to taste.

Bamboo & Broccoli

Serve with fresh coriander and Siam Queen basil as garnishes to be added into soup right before eating. This soup is very mild and I often add a little Sriracha chili sauce to my serving.

Although it isn’t as traditional, I like to serve this over rice udon-style noodles for a more hearty dish for dinner.

Serves 4-6

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

coldandsleepy November 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Tom Yum is probably my very, very favorite food. I also like it over rice (especially the next day) and will have to try it on on udon.

Your recipe looks really wonderful. I have a butt ton of winter squash to use up right now and… some of it might go into something like this!


sherri November 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I love it over rice too! I discovered that we like the rice udon a lot and I’ve been using them. Since I’m usually in an Asian market to get other ingredients, I just grab a pack of fresh noodles at the same time.

Good luck using up your winter squash. We love it so I’ve posted a few recipes using it on here. The ‘Three Sisters Talking Story’ recipe is for a squash, beans and polenta casserole that’s a fab way to use up a bunch of squash. Tomorrow I’m going to try out a potato and squash gratin with chestnuts – this will most likely show up soon as a MoFo post.


sherry November 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

OMG, the pictures are gorgeous! I am salivating.


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