Perfumed with aromatic lemongrass and ginger, zing from lime juice, and heat from a jalapeño, this is my version of a classic Thai shrimp soup called Tom Yum. It is beautiful to both the eye and the tastebuds, plus it is easy to make in under 30 minutes for a quick but healthy meal. Make it mild or make it spicy. Just make it, for something different and delicious.
When spring days are chilly, gray and drizzly, add another sweater and make a pot of soup. Soup warms you up from the inside out.
Tom Yum Soup
Classic Tom Yum is a spicy-sour soup in a clear broth most often made with shrimp. It is common in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia and is popular around the world.
I was introduced to this colorful, brightly flavored soup when training with an Asian chef. Unlike heartier soups we make in winter, this soup is light but satisfying.
A soup like this may be unfamiliar to you, but it is worth getting to know. The flavors are surprising, but exciting. Bright with tart lime, heat from chili, light richness from broth and shrimp, heavenly fragrance from ginger, garlic and lemongrass. I hope you will try it. It’s quick to make and very healthy.
Shrimp is lean protein. Buy peeled and deveined wild shrimp in small to medium size. If they are shell-on, they are easy to peel and clean.
Ginger is great for digestion, garlic has many health promoting properties, lime lifts the flavor overall and cilantro is detoxifying. And lemongrass? It’s like perfume for your food.
What is Lemongrass
Lemongrass is exactly that; a grass, and an important flavoring in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Lemongrass is a long, thin, pale green-gray reed when you buy it in its natural state.
Lemongrass has an exotic, lemony scent with a hint of ginger, like nothing else. Buy lemongrass at Asian markets and in mainstream markets already trimmed and packaged in the produce department near fresh herbs.
How to Use Lemongrass
To use lemongrass, first peel off an outer layer to get to the pale and more tender inside layer. From there, trim off the base, then grate fine on a microplane grater. Chopping it is tough. The microplane turns tough lemongrass into a fragrant dust that melts into what you are cooking.
About Fish Sauce
If you've never worked with fish sauce, it is foreign to the Western palate. It smells a bit fishy, but it adds a salty, umami, rich depth of flavor to recipes. Try it. There is only one brand I buy, a traditionally made Vietnamese fish sauce. Find it on the aisle with Asian food products.
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Chop the ginger, lemongrass, and garlic and cook gently in the oil until soft and fragrant. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and add the shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes and snow peas. Simmer until shrimp turn pink and vegetables are tender, just a few minutes.
Pour into bowls. Finish with lime juice and zest, and fish sauce (optional) and cilantro.
Thai Shrimp Soup
- A large pot for the soup
- 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemongrass use a microplane
- 3-4 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
- 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and chopped fine
- 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth 8 cups, preferably homemade
- 1 pound medium shrimp cleaned and deveined
- 8 ounces shitake mushrooms white or brown will work, thinly sliced
- 2 large Roma tomatoes seeded and chopped small
- 8 ounces snow peas quarter pound, sliced thin crosswise
- 2 limes zested and juiced
- 2-3 teaspoons fish sauce optional
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
- Heat oil in a medium pot over medium low heat. And add lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chili pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add broth and bring to a boil. Turn broth down to low (simmer) and add shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, and snow peas. Simmer until shrimp turn pink and vegetables are tender, just a few minutes. Add lime juice and zest, fish sauce and cilantro. Serve in low wide bowls.
- If you are heat sensitive use half the chili and serve some fresh to be added if you want more heat.
- If you are a chili head and love heat, buy fresh Thai chiles instead of jalapeños, but be careful!
- To make this a heartier soup, add cooked brown rice or udon noodles in the bottom of the bowl and pour broth, shrimp and vegetables over the top.