The most well-known Thai soup

Tom Yum Goong

An interesting story about Tom Yum Goong

What’s the most popular Thai dish for visitors?  The answer is definitely Tom Yum Goong or Tom Yum soup. It is listed as the top one among ten favorite dishes by foreigners in Thailand. It can be found in nearly every Thai restaurant and people who have tried Tom Yum Goong will be deeply impressed and probably eager for next try.

The words "tom yum" come from two Thai words: "tom" and "yam". "Tom" refers to the process of boiling, while “yam” refers to a kind of Thai and Lao spicy and sour salad. Thus, “tom yum” is a Thai hot and sour soup and is indeed the most well-known Thai soup. Tom Yum Goong can also be served with rice or rice noodles, turning it into something like a Vietnamese pho.


Tom Yum Soup


How is it Made

A traditional bowl of Tom Yum Goong is an aromatic combination of kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal, boiled in water with shrimps, chilies, and typically some kinds of vegetable, and lime juice. The one ingredient that is open to debate is coconut milk, some choosing to use it, others choosing not to. The filling of coconut milk makes this a much richer and creamier soup. For tasting soup, we recommend adding it, but for a clearer soup, forget the step.

The perfect Tom Yum Goong should boast a rich orange colour. The vividness comes from the fatty juice in the head of the river shrimps; this juice adds aroma, colour, taste and deliciousness to the soup.

If you’ve never made Thai dish before, Tom Yum Goong is a good point to start. It’s easy without taking too much time, and – best of all – yields great results on your very first try.


Tom Yum Goong with Coconut Milk



Many people searched for the history of Tom Yum Goong and ended up empty-handed. Because this is almost the mark of a very ancient dish which preceded written recipes and has become such a part of the culture, it does not need any further explanation.

There’s little information about the exact history of Tom Yum Goong, but many believe that it’s a central Thai soup that emerged due to an abundance of freshwater shrimps. Boiled in water as a soup, the shrimps gave the broth a real fishy flavor, so cooks began to  experiment by adding local Thai ingredients such as herbs into the boiling water to balance the fishy flavor. The trio of herbs that worked so well to infuse the broth with a beautiful aroma were kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal, which are still the three most important ingredients in any bowl of Tom Yum.


Tom Yum Soup Ingredients


This totally makes sense, as Thailand’s natural highway – the Chao Phraya River – flows through central Thailand almost straight south through Bangkok, then empties into the Gulf of Thailand. The river’s fish and water fowl have fed many generations of Thai people, and Bangkok’s famous floating markets are filled with upriver people who come to sell their goods. Freshwater shrimps from the river would have become a Bangkok staple from an early time, along with other ingredients needed for the soup.