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Tom yum kung (nam sai)

Tom yum/yam kung nam sai (ต้มยำกุ้งน้ำใส) translates to a clear spicy & sour Thai herb soup with shrimp. Most of you may already know what it is just by hearing it’s Thai name because it is world-famous. What may be a little confusing is the latter part of the name ‘nam sai’ which literally translates to clear stock alternate to ‘nam khon’ which is the creamy version. Both kinds are extremely delicious in its own way. I will definitely make a post on the ‘nam khon’ version, another time.

Even though the cooking method for tom yum looks really easy, it is very challenging to achieve that authentic street side flavouring. I have stood by and watched so many street side vendors, trying to learn their secret to the perfect flavours of Tom yum. But just my watching and memorising what goes in first, did not do me any good. Because there is NO secret to it, at all. For Tom Yum, it is really like the saying  tha goes, “practise makes perfect”.

Before we dive into the process of making Tom yum, Let me add that this is a taste as you go kind of preparation. Which means the suggested portions of seasoning ingredients used, is just that –> A suggestion. You will have to taste & decide for yourself, the level of spiciness or sourness or saltiness that you think is perfect for your taste.

Here we go,

Ingredients:-  (serves 4-5)

  • 1 litre of water
  • 4-5 M-size banana shrimp (กุ้งแชบ๊วย)
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 lime, juiced (adjust according to preference)
  • 1 ripe tomato, slice into quarters
  • 1 white onion, cut into 1/4 inch chunks
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 coriander root
  • 2-3 stalks chives/green onion, chopped into 1 inch
  • 5-8 garden chillies
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup your favourite mushroom
  • 2 stalks lemon grass
  • 1 tiny piece galangal, cut into thin slices
  • 5 bergamot leaves


  1. Set a pot of water on medium-high heat.
  2. Cut & discard the bottom 1/2 inch of the lemon grass. Remove 2 layers of tough outer leaves. (Sometimes you get them without any tough layers) Slice the lemon grass into 1-2 inches. Put these in the pot of water.
  3. Pound the coriander root, using the back of your knife and add it along with garlic cloves & galangal.
  4. Season with salt & sugar.
  5. Wash & clean the shrimp. Remove leg, shells & veins. But keep the head. (this is the main flavour of your stock). Add the shrimp to the pot.
  6. Add some (not all) lime juice to the pot. Cover with lid. Let cook for 3-5 minutes on medium-low.
  7. Remove lid. Add tomatoes, onion and mushroom. Spoon out & discard the foam forming at the top.
  8. Time to add the fish sauce. Give the ingredients in the pot a light stir.
  9. Pound the chillies and add them in.
  10. Tear the bergamot leaves (to release the flavours) and put them together with the chives into to the pot. Give one good stir.
  11. Turn off the heat. Pour in he remaining lime juice. Have a taste of the soup. Add more seasoning if required.
  12. Serve hot along side Thai omelette and jasmine rice.






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