Tom Yam soup. I've always seen this soup referred to as Tom Yum, but our instructor and recipe booklet both call it Tom Yam, so that's what I'm going with. If you find yourself in Chiang Mai and are looking for a great cooking class, let me suggest May Kaidee's Thai vegetarian cooking class. The original May Kaidee restaurant and cooking school is in Bangkok; her sister, our instructor, opened a second branch in Chiang Mai about five years ago.
What really amazed me about our Thai cooking class was that no dish we made took much longer than five minutes to put together. I had always assumed that the bold and bright flavours of Thai cuisine would require long cooking times and a lengthy ingredient list; how wrong I was. Of course, we had chopped all of the vegetables we would be using in advance which made things very speedy. But couldn't we do that at home too?
In my home salads are dinner on Monday and Wednesday nights. On Monday as I was chopping vegetables for the salads I kept a Tupperware container on the counter beside the cutting board and when I was chopping a vegetable I thought I'd also like for my soup, I chopped a bit extra and tossed it in. Snow peas, carrot, red and green onion, cauliflower, tomato, and red pepper all went in my veggie container. When we made this soup in Thailand we also included fresh baby corn sliced lengthwise, kale, and these fabulous crunchy brown mushrooms our instructor said were called 'mouse ears'.
On Tuesday I made myself this soup for dinner. Armed with my container of pre-chopped veggies it did indeed come together in a matter of minutes, and it tasted every bit as good as I remember it being in Thailand. All I had to do is dice up some tofu, measure the sauces and spices, and throw it all together in a pot.
On the ingredients let me say this: we brought a good amount of them back from Thailand, but you should be able to find most things in your grocery store or Asian food store. Here in Stockholm there is a small Asian food store in our neighbourhood and there I can find fresh lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal (Thai ginger). In this particular soup I ended up using (frozen) fresh lemon grass because we had bought some for another dish and had it in the freezer. The lime leaves and galangal I used were dried, schlepped back from Thailand. This recipe also calls for chili paste in oil - we bought a vegetarian version in a Thai market, but it's a common enough ingredient that you should be able to find a jar of it wherever you are. If you want to make your own, Jessica has posted a recipe which I intend to try when our jar runs out (assuming I've acquired a food processor by that time).
This fast and easy soup is going to become a regular menu item in our home; we're already planning to make it for dinner again tomorrow night. I hope you give it a try!
Tom Yam Soup Recipe:
Recipe adapted from May Kaidee's vegetarian cooking school
The recipe below is for one large or two smaller servings of soup. You can easily double or triple the recipe and make a big pot of soup for a crowd.
2 cups water
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 half inch pieces of lemon grass, bashed a bit with the back of a knife
Chili for personal flavour (I used a dried chili, but fresh is better)
1-2 cups of chopped mixed vegetables of your choice, including ¼ cup each chopped tomato and onion
¼ cup cubed tofu
½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon raw brown sugar
1 teaspoon Tom Yam chili paste (chili paste in oil)
1 tablespoon each chopped spring onion and cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon milk, or coconut milk for a vegan soup
Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add lime leaves, galangal, lemon grass, and chili. If you are using dried spices boil for a couple of minutes, otherwise proceed to the next step right away.
Add chopped mixed vegetables and tofu. Stir a few times, and watch that the mixture comes back up to a boil.
Once boiling add soy sauces, sugar, and chili paste, and mix well.
Turn off the heat once the vegetables are tender. Add green onions, cilantro, lime juice, and milk or coconut milk. Serve immediately.
If you want to make Tom Kha soup, follow the same recipe but slightly reduce the water and increase coconut milk to ½ cup, or to taste, at the end.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012