There are so many great tom yum pastes readily available that you don't really have to make your own ... except that it is so easy, so lovely and just smells so good! Lime leaves and lemongrass are two of my very favourite scents - I sometimes even use a dab of lemongrass essential oil in place of perfume.
The ingredients might sound exotic but I found them all at Sainsbury's - although I know I'm lucky to have a big store close by. You also need some chilli paste in oil, some nam pao prik, which is easy to make.
So, now to make this lovely traditional clear, hot, sour soup with prawns. As ever quantities aren't exact, but for one big bowl of soup, or for two less greedy/hungry people, you'll need:
cooked rice, to serve, if using
1/2 - 1 chicken stock cube
boiling water to fill a big bowl
1 stalk of lemongrass
a small piece of galangal, or ginger if galangal's not available
a few kaffir lime leaves
four birds eye chillies (don't worry, you don't actually eat the chillies - unless you want to)
one shallot or a small piece of white onion
a big heaped teaspoon of chilli paste in oil nam prik pao
a couple of mushrooms
some prawns - shell on, shell off, cooked or raw, up to you
small handful of coriander leaves
If serving with rice, cook the rice first - I made double the amount needed so I could have a kao pad for Sunday brunch the next day.
Boil the kettle and either make up with the stock cube in a measuring jug or, as I've done, just straight into the soup bowl. With hindsight this probably wasn't the best way to do it as it was really hot picking up the bowl to tip into the pan!
Prepare the ingredients:
- remove the outer layer from the lemongrass, cut into two or three shorter pieces and bash with a rolling pin
- wash and slice the galangal or ginger
- tear the leaves from the stalk of the lime leaves and discard the stalks (this smells AMAZING by the way!)
- bash the chillies with the end of the knife or a rolling pin to squash and slightly open them, then remove the stalks
- slice the shallot or onion and the mushrooms
- slice the tomato lengthways into around eight pieces
Put a saucepan on a medium heat, carefully pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Add the lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves and chillies and boil for two minutes.
Then add the shallot, chilli paste, mushrooms and tomato and boil for another two minutes.
Next the prawns go in for a further two minutes. Halve the lime and chop the coriander.
Add a couple of dashes of fish sauce to taste and squeeze in the lime juice. Taste and add more fish sauce or lime juice if needed.
Throw in the coriander leaves and immediately remove from the heat.
Ladle into a bowl and eat alone or serve with rice.
Another reason I love this soup is that it forces me to really enjoy it and eat slowly, picking out the lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves and chillies, and shelling the prawns.