Thailand Food Exploration: Tom Yum Goong

There are some dishes that crop up on every Thai restaurant menu in Britain.

I’ve been a bit neglectful of some of these, partly because I didn’t eat too many of them when in Thailand recently, and partly because I thought it might be a bit boring.

Green and red curry, pad Thai… you can find these and other dishes in many restaurants, but quite often there were things I fancied more, or that I thought I might not get back home.

However once I’d finished writing the previous post about rice, I realised that I shouldn’t really worry about people finding anything else boring after they read that, so let’s talk about tom yum goong.

tom yum goong

This aromatic soup contains an array of Thai favourites. Lemongrass, chilli, coriander, fish sauce, lime, kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar are combined to flavour a simple stock, then heartier ingredients are added like mushrooms, tomato and prawns (goong).

Nearly all the tom yum goong I ate at various restaurants also seemed to have a little coconut in. As I was fairly sure traditional tom yum soup didn’t contain coconut, I had a look online, and learned about a variant called tom yum nam khon, which includes a dash of coconut milk.

Perhaps tom yum nam khon was the standard way to serve tom yum around Pattaya, or perhaps our Thai host kept sneakily ordering it! Whatever the case, I liked this addition and felt it mellowed the sharper acidic aspect of the soup.

If you’re a huge coconut fan, you should definitely go for tom kha. This has a high proportion of coconut milk and galangal (kha), and is very rich and creamy. Chicken (gai) is a popular alternative to prawns with this one.

As you can see from the photo, it is possible to get a larger portion of soup which sits atop a burner so you can ladle bits out throughout your meal. We never tended to have courses, and things just turned up when ready, so it was nice to have something to turn to while waiting for a new dish. Remember not to leave the prawns sitting in the soup too long, though, or else they’ll get overcooked.



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