As promised, here is the shrimp soup I mentioned in my last post where I wrote about Roast Chili Paste, its key ingredient. Tom Yum Goong is apparently very popular, but even though I have heard about it and probably saw it on some restaurants’ menus, I had never tasted it because until recently I was convinced all the Asian dishes labelled as “sour” were also horribly sweet at the same time. I didn’t really know what to expect and was relieved the result was excellent and not sweetish at all. I was enchanted by the sharpness and complexity of the flavours, much more distinct than in the Thai dishes containing curry pastes or/and coconut milk. The elegance, pureness and freshness of this soup reminded me a bit of the recently discovered Burmese-Style Pork Curry with Ginger, which also doesn’t contain coconut milk, but which is richer and slightly sweet. I also found it surprisingly quick and easy to prepare, the only difficulty lying in the correct balance between the sour and hot flavours.
I found this recipe in “Real Thai. The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking” by Nancie Mc Dermott and have only slightly modified it, mainly leaving out canned straw mushrooms which I don’t like (I have increased the amount of shrimps instead) and scaling it down to two servings.
TIPS: Lemongrass and lime (kafir) leaves freeze very well, so it’s easy to have them all year round. As for the Roast Chili Paste, it’s done in twenty minutes (see the recipe here) and keeps for ages, but you can also buy it in most Asian shops.
The author advises shrimps with tails on, but they make the eating process difficult and not very elegant, so I have removed all the tails, apart for two or three, for decoration.
Preparation: about 15 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2 – 3):
750 ml (about 3 cups) chicken stock
300 g (about 10 oz) shrimp, peeled, with or without tails
2 lemongrass stalks
8 fresh or frozen lime (kafir) leaves
2 – 4 fresh small chilies
juice of 1/2 lime
2 Asian green onions or 1 Western green onion (here the green part only), cut diagonally into 2 – 2,5 cm pieces
1/2 – 1 tablespoon roasted chili paste (see the recipe here)
fish sauce to taste
Heat the stock and in the meantime cut off the leafy part of lemongrass stalks and remove the dry outer leaves.
Crush the lemongrass stalks with a wide blade of knife or a handle (I always use a knife handle), so that they release the aroma.
Put 4 lime leaves and lemongrass stalks (you might need to cut them in two if your pan is small) to the stock and let it simmer for about five minutes.
Put the shrimps into the stock, add the Roasted Chili Paste, two tablespoons fish sauce and cook on medium heat until the shrimps are all pink.
Remove the fresh chili stems and crush them slightly.
Put the chilies, the remaining lime leaves, juice from 1/2 lime and green onions into a big serving bowl (I have divided them into individual bowls). Cover with the soup, give it a stir and adjust the taste adding more lime juice, more roasted chili paste or more fish sauce.
This soup can be made in advance and reheated.