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Tom yum (soup)

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Tom yum, also known as tom yam, is a Thai soup characterised by hot and sour flavours. It includes – among other things – red chilli and lime juice. It’s broth is made from lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal, and ready-made bunches of these herbs are sold in Thai markets. Tom yum is often topped with freshly chopped culantro leaves.

Many different versions of tom yum exist, with various types of protein. Below you’ll find some well-known examples. Regardless of version, many modernized recipes call for the addition of straw mushrooms or oyster mushrooms to the soup. You can also add nam phrik phao (Thai chilli jam) which gives the soup and bright colour and adds more chilli taste to the flavour pallet.

Tom yam pla Earlier, this was the most commonly available tom yam in Thai restaurants. It features fish, typically fish with firm flesh that doesn’t crumble after boiling.
Tom yam goong

(Tom yam kung)

Today, this is one of the most commonly available tom yam versions in restaurants in Thailand, since it is so popular among tourists. It is made with prawns as the main source of protein.
Tom yam nam khon This is a fairly recent addition to the tom yam family. A small amount of milk or coconut milk is added to the broth towards the end, and then balanced with some toasted dried chillies. The protein is usually, but not always, prawns.
Tom yam po taek

(Tom yam thale)

This tom yam sports a combination of several seafoods, e.g. squid, clams, prawns and pieces of fish.
Tom yam gai Tom yam with chicken. Turmeric is typically included when making the broth.
Tom yam kha mu Tom yam with slow-cooked pork leg.

Tom yam pla recipe

Pick a fish that wont crumble after being cooked. Many different low-fat fishes with firm flesh will do, e.g. trout, catfish or snakehead murrel.

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 1.5 litres fish stock
  • 4 whole roasted shallots
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 3 cm lengths
  • 300g fish, scaled, gutted and cut into chunks
  • 4 crispy fried dried red chillies
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 culantro leaves
  • The juice of 3 limes
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce


  1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a big pot.
  2. Add the four whole roasted shallots to the broth, together with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the fish and let the soup simmer until the fish is just cooked.
  4. Add red chilli, sliced shallot and culantro leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Season the soup with lime juice, tamarind juice and fish sauce. Don’t be afraid to adjust the measurements according to your own preferences. The measurements recommended in the ingredients list above is just an approximate guideline.
  6. Serve!