“If you’ve lost your appetite today, I think I have it!”
I meant appetite for delicious food, prepared with lots of love and attention. I love how greeks say “food is love”. I think this could be applicable to so many nations or individual people, who actually think what they eat and appreciate the new as well as already familiar tastes and textures.
Just before Christmas, I finished my 2016 with a trip to Asia. Visited Singapore and Thailand. Met up with some friends living in Singapore. When they asked me what I wanted to see or do, I told them I just wanted to taste the food! And truth be told, I hadn’t really seen much, but was absolutely amazed by the markets, hosting hundreds of food stalls, almost every single one of them cooking and offering some kind of specialty. Singaporean cuisine is as ethnically diverse as its peoples – a blend of Malay, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian and Western influences. Oh, and it was so good! It set the tone for the rest of my trip. I will devote a separate post to some of the Singaporean dishes.
This time it’s about Thai. And Tom Yum in particular. When getting ready for this trip, one of my aspirations was to try Tom Yum in different places in order to taste and capture the real thing! There is something about this soup that I love so much! The mixture of very specific spices, acidity, saltiness, spiciness. I am really fond of the scent of lemongrass and lime. Those two in combination with chilli, shrimp and other goodies – truly heavenly delicious!
It isn’t very easy to find all of the ingredients. I brought the spices from Thailand. However it is possible to find tom yum paste in some specialty stores. If you have the patience, I’m sure you can master finding all of the original ingredients. Besides the complexity or I’d say number of ingredients, the soup is truly easy and fast to make.
- 1,5-2 litres stock (I used vegetable stock)
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 stems lemongrass
- 1-2 chillies
- 1 tablespoon galangal
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 lime – freshly squeezed juice
- 500 g shrimp without shells
- 2 handfuls of mushrooms – preferably shiitake
- A handful of fresh coriander
- 250-300 g cherry tomatoes
- 1 can coconut milk
If you have difficulty finding some of the ingredients, they may be replaced with some other options: substitute kaffir lime leaves with lime zest, lemongrass with lemon slices, galangal with ginger (it does derive from the same family of plants). One substitute I used here versus the more authentic version – mushrooms. Unfortunately couldn’t get my hands on any shiitake today.
Bring stock to boil. Add kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass (cut the stem into several pieces), let it boil for a few minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.
Add chopped garlic, pieces of galangal (or ginger). Depending on your tolerance and preference for spiciness, chop 1 or 2 chillies. Throw in the mushrooms. Pressing lime down, roll it on the cutting board to get the juices flowing, cut in half and squeeze those juices. Pour in the soy and fish sauces. Give it another 3-4 minutes.
Add shrimp and cherry tomatoes. It will take just a few minutes until shrimp turns pink. Don’t overcook it – it will get too hard and chewy. Once shrimp is almost done, pour in the coconut milk and bring to simmer. Et voila! The tom yum is ready to be served. For the soup to be perfect for your taste, it has to have the right balance of acidity, saltiness and spiciness. Taste and add whatever you are missing – be it lime juice, soy or fish sauce.
Top with fresh coriander leaves, serve and enjoy!