I first had tom yum soup — a hot and sour Thai Soup, which with shrimp becomes tom yum goong — at Brown Sugar Cafe on Comm Ave in Boston. It’s a little treasure of a restaurant that I found with my Very Dear Friend JC, and pretty much everyone who’s visited me in Boston has eaten there.
Everything on the menu is good, but my must-order is the tom yum goong. The flavors are perfectly balanced. In fact, it’s so perfect that it’s pretty silly to want to replicate it at home, but that sure didn’t stop me.
Here are the collected ingredients (minus the shrimp):
So we have: Thai red chiles, limes (lime juice), lemongrass, fish sauce, mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, sugar, cilantro.
All the recipes I researched started with chicken stock, but I wanted a clean flavor, so I started with plain water. Once it was simmering, in went the chiles, lemongrass (cut on the bias in two-inch segments, and slightly bruised), the lime leaves, fish sauce (about 3 tablespoons to 8 cups of water), sugar, and a one-inch piece of ginger, in large slices. Technically, galangal should be used in place of ginger, but I forget to pick it up at the market. Ah well.
After twenty minutes or so, I added the mushrooms (sliced) — Mr. O picked out shiitake — lime juice (used juice of three limes, but two would have been better) and shrimp, and let the soup simmer just until the shrimp were pink and cooked. The cilantro just sits on the surface of the soup once it’s served.
On the side: sliced mango and rice.
Not bad for light fare!