I like spicy food, not hair-raising hot curries and the like, but I enjoy a nice kick and I love the layers of different flavours you can build. One of my favourite chilli-based dishes is Tom yam, a hot and sour Thai soup flavoured with fragrant spices and aromatics; a good chicken stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which is now popular around the world. It is usually made with pork or shrimp, tomatoes, onion, maybe mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and coriander and may have Thai chilli jam or nam phrik phao added at the finish, which gives the soup a bright orange colour and a bigger chilli kick.
The base of a good Tom yam is a paste called Nam prik pao made from roasted garlic, chillies, shallots and as with many Thai bases dried shrimp. A commercially made paste is available and perfectly acceptable but I think for the most vibrant authentic taste it is best made fresh ingredients. There are a number of varieties of Tom yam the most popular of which are;-
Tom yam nam sai –a clear Tom yam soup
Tom yam kathi – a coconut milk based Tom yam
Tom yam kung – Tom yam with prawns
Tom yam kai – Chicken Tom yam
Tom yam kha mu – A slow cooked version made with pork leg
Tom yam po taek – Mixed seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yam, as you may have already guessed, is my particular favourite, poached fish, plump mussels and fresh prawns, simmered in the spicy broth is a really warming crowd pleaser. You can use any firm fish and experiment with adding squid and other seafood.
For Soup Base
1 litre quality Chicken stock
4 Lemongrass stalks, bruised and cut into large pieces
6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and quartered
75 gr Galangal, peeled and sliced
6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and roughly crushed
A handful of Coriander stems, bruised ( save leaves to garnish )
5 Lime Leaves, torn
4 small Thai Red Chillies, chopped
4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons Thai Fish sauce
2 tablespoons Dried Shrimp
1 heaped teaspoon Light Brown Sugar
Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Place the shallots, galangal, garlic and chillies on a tray and drizzle with the oil, place in the oven and roast for forty-five minutes until soft and caramelised. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and place in a food processor. Blitz to form a paste. Place the paste and the remaining ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and strain.
300 ml Soup base
100 gr Cod or Monkfish ( boned, skinned and cut into chunks )
3 large Prawns, shelled
6 Mussels in shell
3 Chestnut Mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons of Spring Onion, finely sliced
4 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped Coriander
Juice of ½ a fresh Lime
Heat the soup base up to a gentle simmer and add the fish, prawns and mushrooms. Cook for two minutes and add the mussels and the tomatoes. Cook for four more minutes then remove the soup from the heat, the mussels should be open and the prawns poached. Add the lime juice, spring onions and fresh coriander and check if any more ( seasoning ) fish sauce is required. Ladle into a bowl and serve.
What to Drink? Spicy Tom yam soup is a great match for the classic nutty toasted flavours of traditional Brown Ale and if you want to try a wine pair the slightly sweet, acidic tropical fruit flavours of an off-dry Reisling are a perfect foil for the chilli and spices.
Allergens in this recipe are;