Tom Yam Goong, A Very Popular Thai Soup With Prawns
If you thought that all soups are mild and easy dishes to be casually sipped before a meal, think again. Tom Yum Goong is the name given to a very popular Thai soup that is hot, spicy and sour. Goong is the thai word for prawns and Tom Yam Koong or Tom Yum Goong (mean the same thing) have prawns as a main ingredient. The tom yam goong recipe on this page explains in detail the procedure to be followed to make this popular Thai soup dish. Go through the ingredients used to make the Tom Yam Soup and you will easily find out, which of these gives the thai soup the hot and sour taste. After making your Thai Tom Yum soup for a couple of times, try adjusting the quantity of ingredients to make subtle changes in the tom yum goong recipe to suit your taste.
Medium size raw prawns 500 grams (16 oz)
Cooking Oil 1 Tablespoon
Big jug with water About 2 litres
Turmeric powder 2 teaspoons
Processed tamarind 2 tablespoons
Red curry paste…recipe below 2 tablespoons
Fine red chillies, chopped 1 teaspoon
Shredded kafir lime leaves 5 leaves
Fish sauce 3 teaspoons
Lime juice 3 teaspoons
Soft brown sugar 2 teaspoons
Coriander leaves (fresh) 1/3 cup
Working with the prawns: The prawns are the main ingredient in the tom yum goong recipe so we will first start working with the prawns or, ‘kung’ as they are called in Thai. First, wash the prawns and take off the heads. Now, peel the prawns and remove the shells, the tails are retained and not taken off the prawns. Do not throw away the prawn heads and shells as, we will be using them in this tom yam soup recipe. Use a sharp knife and slit each prawn, devein all prawns. Take care to see that the sharp knife does not cut your finger. Next, keep the prawns aside, we will soon use these prawns to make our tom yum kung soup. You will also have the prawn heads and shells, we will be using these in the next step.
Preparing the stock for the tom yam soup: Put the 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan and heat it. Now add the heads of the prawns and the prawn shells (that we kept aside earlier) into the pan. Set the heat to a medium level and cook for around 10 minutes. Toss and stir the contents of the pan during the 10 minutes that you cook them. The heads and shells will soon turn deep orange in color and that is a sure sign that they are sufficiently cooked. Now add 3/4 cup water into the pan and also include the red curry paste, boil the contents for around 5 minutes. The contents of the pan would have reduced to a slightly lower level (shrunk). Since we intend to use this as the main stock for our tom yum goong recipe, we will need to increase the volume of water at this stage. Add the remaining water to the pan and simmer for around 20 minutes. You will then have to separate the prawn heads and prawn shells from the pan and retain tha liquid. Drain the contents of the pan and remember that, it is the water that we will be using in our recipe for tum yam kung and not the shells and heads. At this stage, you can throw away the heads and shells of the prawns and put the liquid stock back into the pan.
Adding the other ingredients: We will first add some of the ingredients that we reserved earlier. Add the processed tamarind, turmeric powder, chopped chillies and kafir lime leaves to the pan. Notice that we have not yet added the main ingredient in our tom yum goong recipe, which is the prawns. Boil the contents in the pan for around 2 to 3 minutes and it is now time to add the prawns into the pan. Put the prawns into the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. The prawns will turn to a pink color once cooked, so you will need to keep observing the cooking process. At this stage turn off the heat under the pan and move to the next step, your tom yam koong will soon be ready to serve.
The finishing touches: You would have noticed that, the recipe for tom yam koong requires different ingredients to be added at different times during the tom yum goong making process. There are still at this stage, a few ingredients that we have not added to our tom yam goong, so let’s do it now. Add the brown sugar, lime juice and fish sauce into the pan, stir or toss the contents a bit to ensure that these ingredients are well mixed into the tom yum soup. Your hot and spicy tom yam kung soup tastes best when served immediately, sprinkle the coriander leaves on top before serving.
Processed Tamarind: The tamarind along with the lime juice is what gives the tom yum goong soup it’s sour flavour. Processed tamarind is sold in grocery stores and is very convenient to use, the seeds of the tamarind and other inedible portions are taken off the tamarind in the production process. It is sometimes referred to as ‘instant’ tamarind as, it readily dissolves in water and there is no need to take out and discard any residue. Tamarind is an essential ingredient for your tum yum kung soup but, there is a way out if you cannot find readymade processed tamarind. Take a small lump of regular tamarind and soak it in warm water for around 15-20 minutes. The quantity of water should be a little more than the tamarind portion that you use. Do not use too much water when doing this as, it could dilute the other ingredients used in the tom yum goong recipe. Once the tamarind is well soaked, press the pulp with your fingers and take out the seeds and any other strings from the mixture. You can now use this tamarind mixture in your tom yam koong recipe.
Readymade tom yam mix: It is quite likely that your local grocery store has a readymade tom yam mix. This could be in the form of a cube or in a sachet like a paste. All you need to make your tom yum goong would be to put the recommended quantity of the tom yum mix in water and boil it. The remaining ingredients like the prawns can then be added to the boiling liquid. This quick choice might not be an attractive option for those of you who wish to taste good tom yam goong and probably even fine tune the taste to your preference.
Recipe For The Red Curry Paste
We have mentioned Red Curry Paste as one of the ingredients for the tom yum goong recipe. The red curry paste is one of ingredients that gives the tom yam soup it’s irresistable flavour. We will now provide step by step instructions on how to make the red curry paste. It might be easier to get a readymade packet of the red curry paste, but we recommend that you make your own red curry paste. Readymade mixes are normally too simple and have a very standard flavour.
12 Small dried chillies
3 Tablespoons of chopped shallot
4 Tablespoons of chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon of chopped galangal
2 Tablespoons of chopped lemon grass
2 Teaspoons of chopped kafir lime rind
1 Tablespoon of chopped coriander root
20 Pepper corns
1 Teaspoon shrimp paste
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
Procedure: Soak the dried chillies in hot water for 15 minutes. This will soften the red chillies and you will now need to take the seeds (deseed) off the chillies. You will be doing this process using your hands and fingers, do not let the fingers come into contact with your eyes or face.
Put a dry pan on low heat and drop the coriander seeds and cumin seeds into the pan. Roast the seeds for 3-4 minutes and keep moving the pan to toss the seeds around (in the pan). This motion will ensure that the coriander and cumin seeds are roasted uniformly. Do not use a high heat to do this as, too much heat will cause the seeds to burn and become inedible. Now, turn off the heat and leave the seeds in the pan.
Keep aside the seeds (just roasted) and the shrimp paste. The remaining ingredients will have to be finely ground. For doing the grinding you can use a mortar and pestle or a clean blender or a coffee grinder. Grind the ingredients to a fine mixture and leave the mixture in the mortar or blender.
There is a small process to be performed with the shrimp paste. Many red curry paste recipes do not mention this, but we have found that it gives a better flavour to the curry paste. Put the shrimp paste on a small piece of foil and wrap it (inside the foil). Now place the wrapped shrimp paste in a hot grill for 2-3 minutes, when half this time is up, turn the package around. Allow the foil to cool to room temperature before opening the foil to take out the heated shrimp paste.
We will now go back to the ingredients that are still in the blender or mortar. To this finely ground mixture add the shrimp paste, the cumin seeds and coriander seeds that were roasted in the pan. We now have all the ingredients of the red curry paste in the blender. If you are using a mortar, work the mixture with the pestle until it becomes a fine paste. You chould occassionaly scrape the sides of the mortar and move the mixture to the bottom center of the mortar. If you are using a blender, run the blender for around 15-20 seconds and stop to scrape the sides of the blender jar. Move the mixture to the bottom of the jar and process again (15-20 seconds at a time) until the mixture forms a smooth paste.
Storing: The mixture should be stored in a glass jar which has a tight lid. You can use the red curry paste for 2-3 months if stored in the refrigerator. The curry paste will have quite a strong smell and the tightly closed jar will also ensure that, the smell does not spread to all other foodstuffs that might be stored in the refrigerator.