Culinary Adventures
Comments 7

Make Tom Yum

I made this bowl of Tom Yum Gai for one at the Siam Rice Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so you’ll have to pay them a visit if you want the exact recipe.

Tom Yum (or Tom Yam) soup is the hot and sour soup of Northern Thailand and Laos and I first got hooked on this spicy broth back in my student days. We were flatting on K Rd, with a pretty good Thai place just a few doors down at Lim Chhour Food Court. Cash poor but still wanting to eat something with punchy flavours and actual nutrition (instant Mee Goreng and Yum Yum noodles can only take a girl so far) Tom Yum with tofu and vegetables plus a box of steamed rice cost $7 all up.


Tom Yum and many other Thai soups and dishes feature 8 fragrant ingredients:

  • Lime juice
  • Kaffir lime leaves
  • Galangal (Thai ginger)
  • Lemongrass
  • Chili (Bird’s eye chili)
  • Palm sugar
  • Spring onion and coriander (cilantro)
  • Fish sauce

Fish sauce is a key ingredient in Thai cooking and is used in place of salt. You will even find that the Thais will sprinkle fish sauce over their meal to adjust the finished dish to their own preference, just like you might sprinkle salt at the table.


In Thai, the word gai or kai means chicken, goong or kung means prawn/shrimp so ordering Tom Yum Gai or Tom Yum Goong will get you either of these tasty soups.

To add heat to Thai food, Bird’s Eye Chili (also known as Thai Chili) are used. Small and hot, they are used at both red and green stages of ripeness. For those unsure of how many chilies to use here is something I have put together for the home cook. Allow the following number of chillies per person when cooking Thai soups and curries.

Chili guide

(per person)
Mild: 1-2 chillies
Medium: 3-4 chillies
Hot: 5-6 chillies
Thai hot: 7-10 chillies

Jungle Curry, the hottest of Thai curries can have up to 50 chillies per serving. It is not to be messed with. I have found I enjoy 2 chillies in my meals, though 3 chillies is right on the edge of my tolerance. Any more and it’s more burning than flavour to me.

Tom Yum was surprisingly easy to make and considered a good way to clear a hangover after a night of drinking (also ubiquitous in Thailand…and student days). I am glad I learned how to make this delicious soup. Find the recipe anywhere in town (online).

All photos ©2012 Bunny Eats Design.


    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Thanks Baconbiscuit! I am keeping an eye out for the last item on the list. I might just make it this time, a personal best!

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Thanks Liz. Tom Yum is very stimulating. If you could stop at just one smallish bowl, it would make a great appetizer.

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Me too! Although I like the idea of experimenting when I get home. There are various seafoods that I think would work well in this dish.

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