Tom Yam or Tom Yum is a famous spicy and sour soup with Thailand as its origin. This sometimes sweet Thai soup has several types, varying from seafood to pork and chicken. It also has creamy and transparent versions of soup, with the addition of coconut milk or evaporated milk.
Tom Yam is one of the various Thai soup dishes available out there. Thailand’s nature provides unique ingredients, a result of Thai ancestors trying to find out which of them have harmony with each other after boiling. Its usual components are lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime for fragrance, chili for spiciness, lemon juice or tamarind paste for sour flavors, palm sugar for sweetness and fish sauce for saltiness.
Tom Yam appears in almost every Thai restaurant you can find, but you are probably thinking about what it really is. The Thai word for “boil” is tom, and the Thai word yam or yum means to mix hot, sweet, and sour taste into a single dish. Now, the words tom and yam describes a sweet, sour, and spicy dish. Yummy, it is!
Tom Yam Thai Soup Preparation
You can choose either chicken or pork stock to prepare the Tom Yam broth. Gently boil and set the heat until the liquid is barely simmering. Add the lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves to the soup and monitor the temperature to prevent burning the taste and fragrance. Next, the mushrooms and stir in the Nam Prik Pao. Then, fish sauce, followed by crushed chilies. Depending on the type of Tom Yam, your ingredients may vary to harmonize the meat’s odor and taste.
As the soup is gently simmering, lower the shrimp or the meat that you choose into it. Turn up the heat a bit to keep the broth at a steady simmer to cook the meat. Stir the simmering soup occasionally until shrimp nearly firms up. For the creamy version, add the milk and cook until simmering. After removing the soup from fire, season the soup with lime juice and fish sauce to taste. Stir in cilantro leaves, and the spicy, sour Thai soup is complete!
Tom Yam Thai Soup Variants
Like other famous Thai dishes, you can pair rice with Tom Yam to tame the taste and fill your appetite. However, modern recipes add mushrooms to the clear or milky spicy soup, which also tastes good. These are the various types of Tom Yam you can find in Thai restaurants.
Tom Yam Kung (ต้มยำกุ้ง) Prawns in Spicy Sour Thai Soup
It is also known as Tom Yam Goong, with prawns as the main ingredient. The origin of this dish is from the Rattanakosin Kingdom. This version of the recipe is most popular among tourists. Because of the different preferences of customers and chefs, the soup of Tom Yam Kung can also be made with pork or chicken stock.
Tom Yam Nam Sai (ต้มยำน้ำใส) clear broth version
Tom Yam Nam Sai is a choice for the lactose intolerant or for those who prefer smooth tasting soup. Beware, the loss of creaminess will strengthen up the spice, so prepare other foods to pair with it. You can choose to diminish the chilies during preparation, or you can match cooked rice with it.
Tom Yam Nam Khon (ต้มยำน้ำข้น) creaminess from dairy milk
This Thai soup is a more recent variation made famous during the 1980s. Common with prawns as the main ingredient, evaporated milk or non-dairy creamer powder is present in the broth as a finishing touch. The creaminess blends well with the sourness and the spice.
Tom Yam Kathi (ต้มยำกะทิ) creaminess from coconut milk
This is the alter ego of the Nam Khon, where coconut milk is used. This is often confused with tom kha kai (“”chicken galangal soup””), where galangal is the dominant flavor of the coconut milk-based soup. However, its main ingredient is prawn or shrimp.
Tom Yam Kung Maphrao On Nam Khon (ต้มยำมะพร้าวอ่อนน้ำข้น) chunkiness from coconut meat
This is the other creamy prawn version of Tom Yam, but the milky and chunky texture comes from coconut meat and coconut milk. You can also pair it with rice, or add more coconut meat if you want to tame down the spice.
Tom Yam Bhla (ต้มยำปลา) fish version
Traditionally, Tom Yam Bhla was the most widespread form of Tom Yam before mass-tourism came to Thailand. This was when fresh fish was readily available almost everywhere in the region’s rivers, canals, and lakes as well as in the sea. However, until today, Thai locals eat this clear fish soup with rice. The best type of fish for this soup is fish with firm flesh that doesn’t crumble after boiling.
Tom Yam Po Taek (ต้มยำโป๊ะแตก) or Tom Yam Thale (ต้มยำทะเล) mixed seafood version
Some customers may complain in Thai restaurants about the seafood flavor not being enough. In response, Tom Yam Po Taek or Tom Yam Thale can offer what they are looking for. It is a variant of the Tom Yam Thai soup with mixed seafood, like prawns, squid, clams, and pieces of fish. The names are Lao and Thai versions, respectively, but they share the same recipe.
Tom Yam Gai (ต้มยำไก่) chicken version
Some people are allergic to seafood, so Tom Yam Gai is available for them. Lemongrass, chile peppers and lime leaves add a tremendous amount of flavor to this recipe. However, because of their sturdy texture, it is better to leave them in the soup and not eat them. Turmeric is also an essential component of this Thai soup because it blends well with chicken.
Tom Yam Kha Mu (ต้มยำขาหมู) pork version
To make Tom Yam Kha Mu, boil the pork leg for a long time before adding the spices and the other components to soften the meat. It requires a long cooking time under low fire, but the taste of this Thai soup is still fantastic.
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