Sunday, June 2, 2013

Something to Soothe a Summer Cold: Tom Yum Soup




I think I may have made mention of my beautiful, charming and hip niece Kheili before.  What a sweet, darling girl.  She is just so very dear to me.  Without her I might never have discovered the important things in life like Groupon or Living Social.  There is just no telling where I'd be.   I would most certainly be paying too much for sushi and car washes at the very least.  She does her very best to keep me up to date on things, so I have learned to listen when she tells me about a new discovery or old favorite of hers.

I happened to mention to her the other day that Mr. H and I were suffering with stuffy noses and sore throats.  She relayed to me that one of her favorite cold remedies is a spicy, aromatic soup that is rumored to have medicinal powers called Tom Yum.  Being a believer in Jewish penicillin myself, I was skeptical that this Thai concoction could measure up, but in the interest of science I started searching around for recipes.

Tom Yum is a clear, spicy soup that is widely served in Laos and Thailand, but is also very popular in the neighboring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.  "Tom" comes from the Thai word for boiling, and "Yum" is derived from the word "yam" which is a Laotian and Thai spicy and sour salad.  This soup is most often made with prawns, but there are many variations which use tofu, noodles, rice, pig knuckles, chicken, and coconut milk instead of, and in addition to, the prawns.

I have to say that Kheili was right again, as this is just what the doctor ordered.  This soup is hot, sour and aromatic, which is just what we both needed to soothe our symptoms.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a meal just for when you are sick.  This is a delicious soup for any meal, any time of year, even when you are feeling great.  I know for a fact that my daughter is going to love this when she needs a warm up from the chill of the air conditioning this summer.  Thanks for the suggestion Kheili!  You've come through for me yet again.



Tom Yum(ish) Soup

I headed over to my well stocked Korean market for many of my ingredients, but there are easy substitutions for many of the harder to find ingredients in this recipe.


6 cups broth (I used chicken but feel free to use vegetable or fish if you prefer)
4 kaffir lime leaves (the zest of 1 lime will work nicely as a substitute for this)
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 1" lengths
1 - 2" piece galangal root, sliced into 1/8" thick pieces (omit this if you can't find it and add just a little more ginger root)
1 - 2" piece ginger root, sliced into 1/8" thick pieces
1 - 2 birdseye peppers, sliced in quarters diagonally (thinly sliced Serrano peppers are a nice substitute)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 handful mushrooms (straw, sliced button, enoki, etc.)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon Tom Yum Paste or Thai chili paste (I didn't add this to mine and it was still delicious)
Juice of two limes (add juice a half at a time to suit your taste)
1/2 pound medium size shrimp
1/2 cup small diced firm tofu (optional)
1 small bunch cilantro leaves
2 green onions, chopped

Pour the broth in a large saucepan.  Add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, peppers and garlic.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the cover and stir in the mushrooms, sugar, fish sauce, Tom Yum Sauce and lime juice.  Simmer for 5 minutes longer then add the shrimp and tofu.  Cook for approximately 2 - 3 minutes or until the shrimp starts to turn opaque.  Remove from the heat at this point to avoid overcooking the shrimp.  Add salt to taste.  Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro and green onion.  Serve piping hot.

Serves 3 - 4

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