Sweet, Sour, Salty and Spicy…no, not the ingredients for the Powerpuff Girls, but the 4 fundamental tastes of Thai cuisine. My personal favourite combination of these flavors has to be tom yum soup. I went to Thailand many years ago and unfortunately was too young to appreciate the spicy goodness that is Thai food, but now I am converted and would NEVER look back to my no chilli days!
It was my birthday a couple weeks ago and we had delicious prawn dinner, but I wanted to serve this as the starter, and instead of using prawns, I used chicken. The trick to making Tom Yum is to keep tasting it and adjusting the balance between salty, spicy, sweet and sour because if the balance is wrong it will be awful! My family likes it as hot as it comes so if you are a little more sensitive to chillies just dial down how many chillies you add.
This recipe yields about 7-8 small starter portions:
- 2 chicken breasts (sliced and cooked until just-before-done in a pan with peanut or sesame oil) – you can also buy pre-cooked from the store
- 5 cups of strong, low sodium chicken stock
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, sliced into thin sticks (as thin as possible or else it’s like chewing bark)
- 1 whole stalk of lemongrass, bruised
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/3 cup sliced ginger (about 1 and a half thumb sized knobs of ginger)
- 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 8 kaffir lime leaves (bruise with a pestle and mortar)
- 4 tbsp lime juice
- 4-6 red Thai chillies, sliced
- handful of coriander (cilantro)
- 2 large tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 – whole can of coconut milk (depending on taste preference)
- some sugar may be needed to balance
- Bring the chicken stock to the boil before adding the lemongrass (including the whole stalk which you will be fishing out later), ginger and kaffir lime leaves.
- Boil for a few minutes before adding the mushrooms, tomatoes, fish sauce and lime juice. Boil for another few minutes.
- Add the chicken slices and chillies (seeds ‘n all!)
- Take the heat down to a simmer and then taste. If it is too salty, add a pinch or two of sugar, stir and then taste again.
- Add the coconut milk and stir through and taste, if it is too spicy add more coconut milk. Try locate that whole lemongrass stick and remove it.
- Finely chop some coriander and throw it in to wilt down.
- If you find that it doesn’t quite taste right, you can cheat and add some Thai red chilli paste
- Serve with some more coriander on top.
This soup is my absolute favorite thing to order from a Thai restaurant, and it took me two attempts before managing to perfect the flavors. You must just trust your tastebuds and keep adjusting the soup.
This recipes follows the traditional Thai dish which has the bare minimum, but if you would like to eat this as a main dish you can also add cauliflower, green beans, carrots, mini sweet corn or any other of your favourite veggies!!
ENJOY my people!!