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Feb 05 2010

Tom Yum Gai (Thai Spicy & Sour Chicken Soup)

Published by at 2:04 pm under Cooking at Home

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

21 responses so far

21 Responses to “Tom Yum Gai (Thai Spicy & Sour Chicken Soup)”

  1. Chef Eon 05 Feb 2010 at 2:16 pm

    You so know how to drive my taste buds crazy!

  2. Sandyon 05 Feb 2010 at 3:08 pm

    This looks delicious! Perfect to go on a rainy day like this one. :)

  3. Cookin' Canuckon 05 Feb 2010 at 3:32 pm

    This is exactly what I’m craving right now. I love the balance of flavors between the spicy and sour.

  4. Karenon 05 Feb 2010 at 5:30 pm

    YUM!! I love tom yum gai! Looks delicious.

  5. Natasha - 5 Star Foodieon 05 Feb 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Definitely yum! Such great flavors, my hubby would love this soup especially after all the snow shoveling he’s going to have to do this weekend!

  6. MaryMohon 06 Feb 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Another of my favourite Thai dish. Looks awesome here. I love the flavour and taste.

  7. Carla's Tasty Treatson 07 Feb 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I’m so jealous about the lime! I had to send away to a special store and get them over-nighted you would think it would be easier so close to NYC

  8. noobcookon 09 Feb 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I love tom yum soup and your version looks very good – yes definitely worthy of a Thai restaurant standard :)

  9. Karineon 10 Feb 2010 at 1:43 am

    I love this soup! It sounds so delicious. Thanks for sharing :)

  10. eatfoodson 16 Feb 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Tom Yum is one of my favorite Lao soups. The Thai version tastes good as well.

  11. mycookinghuton 11 Mar 2010 at 1:37 pm

    This is always my favourite. ;)

  12. thereseon 27 Jun 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Hi – thanks for this, this was the closest match to the one I get from my restaurant. They use bamboo shoots and brocolli stalks/bok choy – adding those made it just divine!

  13. Bangkok Guide.dkon 14 Oct 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Nice, seems like you got it just right. So many Thai restaurants substitute original Thai ingredients with cheaper local ones and ruin the dish.
    .-= Bangkok´s last blog ..Soi Cowboy =-.

  14. Nikkion 13 Nov 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I am with friends & we are ordering online from a restaurant that only has photos of their menu on their website… we really can’t read the ingredients & it’s a deterrant. I Googled this recipe & it was the 1st thing that came up. Not only does it look delicious.. I kinda wish you did open up a Thai restaurant ;) You’d at least have .pdf version of your menu for all to see ;)
    .-= Nikki´s last blog ..Fresh Express Creativity =-.

  15. simplythaion 28 Dec 2010 at 11:26 pm

    this is delicious soup!!! actually the problem is no to cook it, but to collect all these ingredients! I used to buy ingredients in Thailand when I go there for vacation. But now I’ve run out of my stock, and order all the ingredients online through thai tom yum shop! I use this one:, but you can google your own favorite tom yum shop))

  16. Oleon 18 Jan 2011 at 4:12 am

    I prefer it without Languan but other than that i would say its spot on, and i could go for a bowl right now.

  17. hasenpfefferon 02 May 2011 at 6:12 pm

    This sounds delicious and ridiculously easy. I can’t wait to try it.

    Although, canned mushrooms and baby corn? I think it’s illegal in 30 states to eat mushrooms out of a can, isn’t it? Anyone tried this with fresh shrooms and/or corn?

  18. Tasantheruson 11 Nov 2011 at 11:55 am

    Just a ?, I’ve cooked with both Lemongrass and Kaffir leaves, and never left them in the soup. are you supposed to eat the galangal, lemongrass and kaffir or is it just for flavoring?

  19. thefoodaddictson 14 Nov 2011 at 7:59 am


    Lemongrass, Kaffir leaves, and galangal are used only for flavoring. Some people remove them before serving the soup. I prefer to leave them in the soup as long as you let your guest know that they are not edible.

    Daniel@ The Food Addicts

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