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.
Thai Shrimp Soup (Tom Yum)
Although it is supposed to be spring, the day was chilly, gray and drizzly. Another sweater is not what I needed. I needed was to be warmed up from the inside. Looking for inspiration I flipped through my beloved culinary school binders from more than a decade ago and came across my recipe for Tom Yum.
Classic Tom Yum is a spicy and 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 and have practically forgotten about it. Unlike heartier soups we make in winter, this soup is light but satisfying.
Bright Flavors and Colors
Unless you have had Tom Yum at a Thai restaurant, a soup like this may be unfamiliar to you. The flavors are surprising, but exciting. Bright with tart lime, heat from chile, 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, 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.
A Lesson in 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. It 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.
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.
Thai Shrimp Soup
- 2 teaspoons unrefined coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemongrass use a microplane
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 1 small jalapeño seeded and chopped fine
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth preferably homemade
- 8-10 ounces medium shrimp cleaned and deveined
- 4 ounces shitake mushrooms 1/4 pound, white or brown will work, thinly sliced
- 2 Roma tomatoes seeded and chopped small
- 4 ounces snow peas quarter pound, sliced thin crosswise
- 1 lime zested and juiced
- 2-3 teaspoons fish sauce optional
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- Heat oil in a medium pot over medium low heat. And add lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chile pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant, 1-2 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.