Tom Yum is basically chicken broth and coconut milk infused with spices like lemongrass and kafir lime leaves and hot peppers. Start with a quality homemade chicken broth, or cheat and use a bouillon cube, it’s up to you.
Tom Yum (Tom Yum Goong)
2 1/2 cups stock (shrimp or chicken*)
10-12 shrimp or 8 oz (head-on and shell-on but chop the eyes part off. Devein if you wish)
3 bird’s eyes chilies
3 slices galangal
6 kaffir lime leaves (bruised)
2 tablespoons nam prik pao (Thai roasted chili paste)
2ish teaspoons fish sauce, to taste
1 stalk lemongrass (use the white part only, pounded with a cleaver)
6 canned shiitake mushrooms
In a pot, bring 3 cups of water to boil. Then add a big handful of shrimp/prawn heads. Boil the shrimp head until the water turns slightly orange in color. Press the shrimp heads with spatula to extract the “goodies” from their heads. Let the stock reduce to slightly more than 2 1/2 cups. Drain the shrimp stock and discard the shrimp heads.
Add lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, bird’s eye chilies, mushrooms, nam prik bao to the shrimp stock and bring it to boil. Add in the shrimp and fish sauce. Boil until the shrimps are cooked, dish out and serve hot. Allow each guest to squeeze a lime into each serving.
Serve with a tray of traditional thai seasonings. Chopped coriander leaves (cilantro), lime wedges, dried red peppers, etc.
*You can also use chicken, a combination of chicken plus shrimp, or seafood combination (shrimp, squid, scallops, green-lipped mussels) for tom yum soup. It’s really up to you, but the most popular tom yum is tom yum goong, goong means prawn.