Flavours of Thailand

Tom Yum

also referred to as Tom Yam, is a type of hot and sour Thai soup, usually cooked with shrimps. The two words “tom yam” are derived Thai words, where Tom refers to the boiling process, while yam refers to a Thai spicy and sour salad. So literally meaning, the boiled spicy and sour salad! Indeed, tom yum is characterised by its distinct hot and sour flavours, with fragrant spices and herbs generously used in the broth. The basic broth is made of fish/chicken stock and fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers.

Commercial tom yum paste is made by crushing all the herb ingredients and stir frying in oil. Seasoning and other preservative ingredients are then added. The paste is bottled or packaged and sold around the world. If you wish to make your own, preservative free tom yum paste, then I have included for you a video that demonstrates how it’s made. Tom yum flavored with the commercial paste will taste and have different characteristics from that made with fresh herbs and spices at home.

It is worth mentioning here that the soup may often often include meats such as chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. The shrimp version is referred to as Tom Yum Kung. While it belongs to Thai cuisine, Tom yum is also widely served in neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Laos; besides being popularised around the world. The soup is delightful because it is both tangy, and spicy as well as fresh tasting due to the galangal, which is somewhat minty, piney and spicy too. Also the lemongrass gives this soup so much aroma and freshness as does the lime. Give it a try if you haven’t it is really delicious.

Here is how you can make it at home…



  • 12 fresh tiger prawn, deveined
  • 1/2 cup brown button mushrooms or oyster mushroom
  • Thai chilli lightly pounded (amount depending spicy preference 2-5)
  • 1 lemon grass sliced diagonally
  • 3 tsp lemon juice
  • 5 pcs galangal sliced
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves shredded
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 packet tom yum paste (or see video below for recipe)
  • 1 cup cooking cream
  • 1 tsp chilli oil
  • 3 cups chicken broth (recipe on this link)
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved

In a medium pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil.

Add tom yum paste, and stir to incorporate, then add the mushrooms, lime leaves, sliced galangal and lemongrass, as well as chillies.

Season the soup with the fish sauce and lemon juice, then add the halved tomatoes, cream, chili oil and the prawns. Bring back to the boil.

Once boiled, simmer for 5 minutes.

Your soup is now ready. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Serve hot.


You may also like to try the amazing Pad Thai on this link. Also including a tour of Thai cuisine’s street foods.

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