Tom Yam Soup Recipe

***I rarely measure ingredients. Some ingredients vary in potency. My recipes are best used as a list of ingredients and notes on the cooking process. If proportions seems off to you add or subtract as needed to achieve the result you like the best. That’s what I do!***

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Tom Yam is my favorite Thai soup. It has so much amazing flavor. It is tangy, sweet, spicy, and even a little bit creamy. This version can be made in less than an hour and is powerfully flavored, adding more water will mellow things out if that is what you like. 

You can add almost any protein to this recipe. I most often add shrimp which makes this Tom Yam Goong. If using shrimp, consider making a shrimp stock (boil the shells in water for 5 min) and using that in place of water or chicken stock, this adds a nice complexity of flavors to the soup.


  • Shrimp (most any protein works)
  • 200g (½ bag) of Tom Yum Paste (Aroy-D or Mae Ploy, comes in a 400g plastic tub)
  • 1 Tbsp of Red Curry Paste** (I use Aroy-D)
  • 1 Tbsp Fish Sauce (I probably use 2)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 1 can of coconut milk (leave nothing behind, scrape that sucker)
  • 3-5 cups of water or chicken stock
  • 8 large cloves Garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped large
  • 2 stalks lemongrass cut into 6” pieces 
  • 6-10 lime leaves, fresh > dried 
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger cut into large discs
  • 1.5 Tbsp brown sugar
  • Lime juice to taste (2 – 3 limes usually)
  • Heat to taste (see notes)
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: all kinds of veggies and mushrooms

**You want red curry paste that has shrimp paste in it. If you can’t find that you can use red curry paste + dollop of shrimp paste. If you can’t find either, compensate with a little extra fish sauce. 


Cooking process: There are two schools of thought here. Many recipes recommend boiling ginger, lemongrass, and lime leaf first and then straining those out before the rest of the process. This is essentially making a broth first. I think that is an unnecessary extra step. I just throw these ingredients in early and leave them in. The lemongrass, ginger, and lime leaves are easy to eat around and I think that leaving them in allows them to impart more flavor (including during the time sitting in the fridge overnight). Maybe the other method will win me over someday but for now I don’t strain out my aromatics. 

Veggies: You can add all sorts of veggies to this soup. I just use onions and mushrooms but go nuts and add whatever you like. Similarly, garnish this soup with whatever you want. Bean sprouts, cilantro or other herbs are common options. I most often don’t garnish it with anything. 

Proteins: Almost anything will work. Add your protein at the very end of the cooking process so that when your protein is cooked the soup is finished and can be taken off of the heat. Just be careful to not overcook your veggies if your protein requires a long cooking time. 

Heat: Cayenne pepper is the easiest way to add spiciness. Cayenne pepper imparts very little flavor, it is consistent, predictable, and it spreads out evenly. Fresh chilis are another good option. Two options for peppers: 1) add them in when sauteeing your garlic. They will build heat through the entire cooking process so beware that this will create the most spicy soup. 2) Add them in at the end. You will get a sudden burst of heat when you eat a piece of pepper. I usually use a small amount of chilis and option one. I then add cayenne if more heat is desired. Be careful adding sriracha or sambal. These impart quite a bit of their own flavor, it would make sense to add these early in the cooking process to mitigate that.  

Curry Paste: You can certainly make your own curry paste to use in this soup. I believe that even if you make your own it will not have the chance to meld flavors and/or ferment the way pre-made curry pastes do. This will be blasphemy to some. That’s fair but this soup is delicious with the store bought curry pastes I use. If you want to take the extra time and effort to make your own I say go for it! Otherwise, enjoy a significant portion of the work being done for you. 

  1. Bring a large stock pot up to heat and add vegetable or coconut oil.
  2. If using carrots, or other any veggies you don’t want too firm, sautee them in a large stock pot
  3. Add red curry paste, fry for 1 minute (should be pretty stinky)
  4. Add a dollop of tom yum paste, garlic, and ginger discs saute 1 minute
  5. Add ½ bag of Tom Yam Paste, and coconut milk, wait 1-2 minutes before stirring
  6. Add 3-5 cups of water (or shrimp stock), lemongrass, lime leaf, and onion. Bring to a low boil
  7. Add any additional veggies or mushrooms.
  8. Light boil until protein is cooked and onion is at desire softness 
  9. Take off heat
  10. Add lime juice, heat*, salt, and fish sauce to taste

The onions should be clear(ish) while still having a small crunch. The most important ingredients in this recipe are Tom Yam paste, lime leaf, ginger, and lemongrass and red curry paste. Go the extra mile to find those.

If you go to the trouble of buying lime leaf, ginger, and lemongrass then get a bunch and make Tom Kha, Indonesian Curry, and/or Soto Ayam. 

Written by:

Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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