Thai Tom Yum Soup (Goong, Talay, Pla-Muk)

Tom Yum Soup Spicy and Sour Soup with Variations

Thai Tom Yum soup is one of my all-time favorites and perhaps my favorite Thai food when it comes right down to it!

This soup is a little bit of effort but the reward is truly something to behold. When I first had Tom Yum Goong (naam sai) at a restaurant on Hillsboro Avenue in West Tampa, Florida I thought I was in a dream. I ordered this $7 soup and I was hoping it was going to be at least palatable.

Instead, it was INCREDIBLE and the best soup I’d had up to that point.

The flavors that are in this soup, are so scrumptious that when I think about it – I must have it! Here in Thailand, it’s easy to run out and get it. I typically pay about $5 USD for a bowl here in Thailand, but it’s even better when Joy or her mom decides to make it at home for the family!

For you, it would be easy to find in any Thai restaurant. It’s something they must have or they are not really true THAI! 🙂

Ok, no more delay. Let’s talk about how you can make Thai Tom Yum Soup that is better than any soup you ever tasted.

You should be able to find all the necessary ingredients in your local Asian, Chinese, or Thai grocery. There is a ready-made Tom Yum paste in small glass jars with pictures of brownish soybean oil and usually a Shrimp in the picture.

Tom yum gai soup - chicken Tom Yum spicy soup.
Tom Yum Gai Naam Sai (clear broth) soup that somehow with all the tomatoes turned out to be quite orange! ©

Galangal is a part of the ginger family. It’s a stubby root, light tan color, that resembles a cross between ginger and pepper. If you cannot find Tom Yum paste, a substitute is “Thai Red Curry” paste. Kaffir lime leaves are stiff and have an aromatic citrus-like smell and flavor.

In America, they remove a lot of the ingredients from the bottom of the soup before serving. In Thailand, everything that is put in – stays in to increase the flavor. The lemongrass, Galangal, and red chili peppers continue to spice the soup as it is eaten.

In Thailand, we prefer this extra flavor, but it may prove too much for your tastes… as we say in Thailand, “Up to you!” Variations of this Tom Yum Goong (Shrimp) include substituting squid or seafood for the shrimp to give you “Tom Yum Pla-Meuk” or “Tom Yum Talay” respectively.

Tom Yum Soup – Goong (shrimp), Talay (seafood), Pla-Muk (squid)

Tom Yum Soup Preparation

  • Shrimp – 1/2 pound medium-sized, peeled and deveined. You can use
  • Mushrooms – 1 (4.5 ounces) can, drained.
  • Water – 4 cups.
  • Lemon grass – 2 stalks (~10″ long).
  • Kaffir lime leaves – 4-6. Red onions – 3 small, cut into quarters.
  • Tomato – 1 medium to large.
  • Galangal – 4 small pieces.
  • Straw mushrooms – 18, whole.
  • Fish sauce – 1 1/2 tablespoons.
  • Limes or Lemons – 1 1/2, squeezed.
  • White sugar – 1 teaspoon.
  • Chili peppers – 2-8 red and/or green.
  • Tom yum soup paste – 1 tablespoon.

Cooking Thai Tom Yum Soup

1. Cut the lemongrass stalks into 2″ pieces.

2. If you are using Tom Yum paste you can use 2 tablespoons instead of making your own stock with this step. It will cut down on the time necessary… Stock: Add the shrimp heads and shells to water, then cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Soak heads and shells for 20 more minutes before removing them from the broth.

3. Add stock, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, chili padi, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili paste to a pot and bring to a boil. After boiling for 5 minutes, add tomato and onion. In 5 more minutes add shrimp and mushrooms. Cook another 10 minutes. For presentation, you can garnish with coriander.

Thai Creamy Tom Yum Soup Variation

Thai creamy tom yum pla (fish) soup with coconut milk and more spice.
Thai Creamy Tom Yum Pla (fish) soup. This one has a lot of flavor, is not so simple, and can be very spicy. We love it every now and then!

Creamy Tom Yum Soup can get really spicy, and that’s part of the whole point! We love this one every once in a while when we’re really craving the unique flavor of this one. It goes perfectly with fish, squid, shrimp, a combination of seafood, chicken, or tofu.

Thai Tom Yum Kai Pla (fish eggs) Variation

A big bowl of Thai Tom Yum Kai Pla (with fish eggs) soup from Phuket in Southern Thailand.
Tom Yum Kai Pla (with fish eggs) made by our friend Darren’s lovely wife Aorn! To be honest, I had never even heard of this style of Tom Yum before Darren showed it to me.

Other Common Thai Tom Yum Soup Variations

The most common Tom Yum Soup is with shrimp (goong). The next most common variation is with fish (pla), usually pla nin (tilapia fish). Squid (pla meuk) is another very popular ingredient in this soup. Putting all of those seafood (talay) ingredients in at the same time is also a common way to enjoy many varied flavors and textures in this incredible Thai delicacy.

Some people add chicken for Tom Yum Gai. Some add pork or beef. If you are vegetarian, you can add more vegetables and/or tofu to make it palatable.

Tom Yum Soup is one of those foods with such an incredible taste that everyone who tries it seems to like it.

The combination of saltiness, spice, and sourness from the limes, and the various tastes of onion, tomatoes, lemongrass, and other ingredients make it a really special concoction that you can feel confident serving at your next dinner party. Even if nobody there has ever had it before!

Sawasdee Ka - Joy

[Image Credit – DarrenB3 at YouTube]

5 thoughts on “Thai Tom Yum Soup (Goong, Talay, Pla-Muk)”

  1. how many does your recipe serve?

    i had a really good soup in Thailand that i thought was Tom Yum, it had kafir lime and lemongrass etc, but it had glass noodles in it too, the soup was really spicy, and the solids really cool, was this just tom yum stretched out a bit with noodles, or is this something else entirely?

    • Hi Jamie,

      To me that almost sounds like Yum Woon-sen spicy salad… but, if it was a soup – I’m stumped. I’ll ask Joy what it is – she’s sleeping like a baby right now! – Vern

      • Joy said she thinks she had a soup like that in Bangkok once. It’s not a generally known soup – but in BKK they try different things sometimes and see if people like it. Obviously you liked it! Come back to Thailand – it’s dead around here – very few tourists! – Vern

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