Friday, May 08, 2009

Easy Thai Lemongrass Soup (Tom Yum Goong)

Apparently, we're on a soup kick here at A Mingling of Tastes, but don't try to tell me that's a bad thing! This is my simple, anytime take on those spicy, aromatic Thai broths that can seem unattainable to American cooks. You don't need to track down any exotic ingredients or drive around town looking for Kaffir lime leaves. Of course it wouldn't hurt if you did that, but I can't be asked.

Since this is a version of Tom Yum Goong, the big flavor is lemongrass. You can find it in most supermarkets these days near the fresh herbs. You don't have to bother with peeling away the rough outer layers or identifying and chopping the inner core. All you have to do is throw it in a pot with some chicken broth, ginger and chiles and simmer for about 20 minutes to create your soup base. Add shrimp and any other additions you like, and you have a tasty first course or a healthy main dish.

Thai Lemongrass Soup with Shrimp (Tom Yum Goong)
Most similar recipes don't call for ginger, but I love it here. If you have access to fresh Thai chiles, use them in place of serranos. For less heat, just cut the seeded chiles in half and remove them from the broth before serving. A spoonful of Thai or Korean chile paste or fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves (remove before serving) are also nice additions. If you don't have canned straw mushrooms, use any fresh mushrooms and simmer until tender. Canned bamboo shoots may also be added along with the shrimp and mushrooms. Serve with rice, if desired.

Serves 4 as a first course, 2 as a main dish

1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 to 3 lemongrass stalks, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 serrano chiles seeded and chopped (see head note)
1 Tbs. Thai or Korean roasted chile paste (optional)
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup drained canned straw mushrooms (any fresh mushrooms may be substituted)
Juice of half a lime
Chopped fresh cilantro for serving

Finely chop half of the ginger. To a large pot, add the chopped ginger, the remaining chunk of ginger, the chicken broth, lemongrass and chiles. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the chile paste if using, the shrimp and the mushrooms to the pot. Simmer until shrimp are firm and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Discard the large pieces of lemongrass, ginger and chiles (if you opted not to chop them). Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.


billjac said...

Most recipes don't call for ginger (your post is already the top result when you Google for both), but they do call for galangal which is a close relative. I'm pretty sure most Americans who've had tom yum goong have had it with ginger since it's so much cheaper and easier to get here.

Julie said...

Billjac: I was going to write about galangal in the post, but I wanted to keep it shorter. You're right. I swear my Whole Foods sometimes has it, but not when I needed it! I've never cooked with galangal, but the ginger is a good sub here.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this looks delicious. In a curiously convenient twist, I know exactly where to get galangal, so now I have no excuse not to (a) make this soup and (b) buy galangal. Will keep you posted.

Celtlund said...

Thank you so very much. I had this soup in Thailand when I was stationed there during the Vietnam war. I remember how delicious it was and have been looking for a recipe for years. This is defiantly the Lemongrass soup I remembered. It was spicy hot as it should be but not so much so that my wife couldn't eat it.
I used the galangal and Thai chili sauce that are available in most oriental or Asian food stores. I also used fresh sliced button mushrooms instead of canned straw mushrooms.

Julie said...

Celtlund: Wow, your version sounds great. Good call using the fresh galangal. Thanks for sharing your results!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It sounds delicious and I'm trying it tonight.

Charlotte said...

I love this soup. We also make a version of this using some sauted veggies such as thinly sliced carrots and shitake mushrooms. What do you think about adding some coconut milk at the end for an added treat??
Thanks for posting this.

Charlotte said...

Forgot to add that you could also add in some seaweed for extra nourishment.

Julie said...

Charlotte, absolutely try it with coconut milk! Glad you like it.

Jeff said...

do you mean 2 to three two inch pieces of lemon grass, or really 2 - 3 entire stalks cut into 2 inch pieces? I opted for the second option but I was curious. Thanks!

Julie said...

I did mean 2 to 3 stalks because you only use a small portion of the entire stalk. You discard all but the lower 3 to 4 inches and peel away the tough outer layers. Then you chop and use the tender inner core...that's where the flavor is. Very good question!

Anonymous said...

Julie, instead of pealing the outer layer of the lemongrass you can crush it with the flat side of the knife like you crush garlic cloves. The lemongrass adds loads of flavor that way.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking about leaving out the mushrooms and shrimp as i have none, but im so glad i stumbled upon this recipe, cant wait to have the plain soup!