Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot and sour shrimp soup)

Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot and sour shrimp soup)

(Thai hot and sour shrimp soup) Submitted by: mizducky
Keywords: Thai, Shrimp, Soup, Seafood, Intermediate, Hot and Spicy
Servings: 8 as a soup
1-1/2-2 pounds large shrimp with heads and shells
2 stalks lemongrass
3-4 cloves garlic
1 chunk ginger or galangal root
4-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves
4-6 limes
Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, to taste
palm sugar, to taste
fresh Thai red chiles, to taste
nam prik pao, to taste
1 handful cilantro leaves, to taste
2 15 ounce cans straw mushrooms
extra chicken, fish, or vegetable broth as needed
Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp and reserve, along with any juices from the heads.
Devein the shrimp as needed while you're at it.
(The heads should pull right off. Use scissors to shell the raw shrimp easily: insert one blade of the scissors right at the point where the vein peeks out from the body and snip right through the shrimp's back, shell and all; then the shell will pull right off and the vein is exposed for easy removal.)
Put the heads and shells in a stockpot with water to cover.
Add one stalk of lemongrass, sliced; 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed; and a chunk of fresh ginger or galangal root the size of your thumb, sliced.
Bring to a boil, back down to a low simmer, over and simmer for a good hour or so, stirring occasionally.
Strain the broth through a fine sieve, smooshing the shells and heads a bit to get at least some of the remaining liquid out.
Discard the shells and other detritus.
(If you're not making soup immediately, cool the broth and freeze until needed.)
From this point onward, the recipe directions get unrepentantly seat-of-the-pants-ish ...
Return the broth to the pot.
Add an extra cup or three of your backup broth as needed to bring the volume of broth up to the amount you'll need for your number of diners.
Drain the straw mushrooms; the liquid will probably be too tinny-tasting to use.
Halve the shrooms if they're big, and add to the soup.
Also add 4 to 8 kaffir lime leaves, depending on size, and the second stalk of lemongrass, sliced up.
Bring up to simmering temperature, cover, and let cook together for awhile till the lemongrass and lime leaves have had a chance to let their flavor develop.
You're now going to do a balancing act with the fish sauce, limes, palm sugar, nam prik pao, and chiles, adding and tasting till you like the combo of flavors and level of heat.
My suggestion would be to start with a big spoonful of the nam prik pao--make sure it's well dissolved into the simmering soup--and maybe one or two chiles, sliced and deseeded.
Wear gloves when cutting up the chiles--and if you're a chile-head, by all means add more than one or two to start!)
Then a couple tablespoons of the fish sauce.
Then alternate lime juice and sugar till you can taste both sweet and sour--you probably will only need a little sugar, if any, because the nam prik pao has sugar in it already.
Then re-adjust the savory and hot seasonings as needed.
Repeat till you're happy with the result.
(Many recipes say to wait to add the nam prik pao until the soup is served, putting a spoonful in the bottom of the bowl and ladling the soup on top to dissolve it. I found it easier to get the other seasonings balanced if I did the nam prik pao at the same time. You can always offer the nam prik pao, and other condiments, at table for anyone who wants to adjust their soup further.)
Maybe ten minutes before serving the soup, bring it just up to a boil and drop in the shrimp.
Bring it back up to a lively simmer, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through--don't overcook!
Pour into a tureen, drop in the handful of cilantro leaves, and serve.
(Make sure your guests know that the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass are not meant to be eaten!)

Posted by Nancy K. There are two ingredients that really "make" this soup: the head-on shell-on shrimp and the nam prik pao. If you can't get the former, substitute the best-flavored seafood, chicken, or vegetable broth you can get, and promise yourself to get the shrimp with heads next time. Shrimp that have a bright orange spot showing through their translucent heads are especially choice for this, as the orangey stuff brings a lot of color and flavor to the broth.

The trick with the nam prik pao is for non-Thai readers to identify it in the store, because the English labeling will call it something innocuous like "roasted chilli paste". Pantainorasingh is one common and popular brand of the stuff--the label has a long dragon boat on it and describe the stuff as "chili paste with soya bean oil." Despite the verbiage, the Pantainorasingh brand actually has only a mild chile kick--mostly it's super-savory, and a bit sweet. (Incidentally, a web search will turn up a variety of English transliterations of "nam prik pao"--I especially like the ones that aptly spell the last syllable "pow.")


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