If you’ve ever been to a Thai restaurant, you’re probably very well aware of this soup they call Tom Yum Gai. “Tom Yum” is the name of the soup that originated from Laos and Thailand, and “Gai” means chicken. Tom Yum is also typically made with prawns, which is called Tom Yum Goong. Since we didn’t have any prawns on hand, we used chicken. Other distinct characteristics of this soup is that it’s made with very unique ingredients – such as galangal (a very earthy and citrusy root), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and fish sauce. It may sound like a very weird combination of flavors, but somehow it incorporates nicely!
With a very rainy weekend ahead of us, it is absolutely necessary to make this soup. We made it last night for the first time and were quite impressed with the turn-out! We added our own additional fresh ingredients to make this a very healthy and satisfying meal. When Thai people named this soup, they were right when they used the word “Yum” in it.
This is the galangal root that is a "must" in this recipe. You can buy this root at your local Asian supermarket for like a dollar. This is a very hard root that looks like it resembles ginger, but there is no similarity in taste. For this recipe, we used a 2-inch root and sliced it into small pieces.
To prep the other ingredients, we used about 5 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 3 shallots chopped, 3 small to medium Roma tomatoes (or any kind of tomatoes you have), and 5 Kaffir lime leaves. Luckily we have a lime tree in the backyard so we just used that! The leaves should be cut in half and de-stemmed.
To start the broth, we used 10 cups of chicken broth and added 1/4 cup of fish sauce to flavor it. To this, add 2 or 3 juiced limes (depending on how sour you like the soup). Add the sliced galangal, chopped lime leaves, minced garlic, chopped shallots, and 1 fresh lemon grass stem cut into short lengths. We used our lemongrass in the garden, too. Yay! Anyway, bring this to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.
After the simmering process, we added 1 lb. of bite-sized chicken pieces (you can use breasts or thighs). This goes in raw and it will cook in the soup. Next, we crushed about 7-10 Thai chilis and threw it in the pot to get it nice and spicy. If you don't think crushing it will get it spicy, you can cut it in half and let some of the seeds seep out. Finally, we added the tomatoes, 1 can of straw mushrooms, and 1 can of baby corn. Let this return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes.
And there you go! A nice hot bowl of Tom Yum Gai that is sour and spicy! Keep in mind that you are NOT supposed to eat the lime leaves, lemongrass, or the galangal. They are only used to flavor the soup - so don't try to eat them. This is much easier than we thought it would be, and we can now open a Thai restaurant. Just kidding.
To view or print-out this recipe, click here: Tom Yum Gai