Traditional Tom Yum Kung

Traditional Tom Yum Kung

The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
265 Calories
11g Fat
28g Carbs
15g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 265
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 7g 33%
Cholesterol 43mg 14%
Sodium 1601mg 70%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 10%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 15g
Vitamin C 6mg 28%
Calcium 68mg 5%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 860mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Tom Yum Kung is the most famous of all Thai soups. Bold, fragrant, filling, and altogether the perfect lunch or dinner, Tom Yum Kung soup features all four of the famous Thai flavors: salty, sour, sweet, and spicy. Contrary to popular belief, the authentic Tom Yum Kung is made without coconut milk. It's found everywhere in Thailand, and one of the most widely available dishes in all Thai restaurants abroad. Tom Yum Kung provides a pungent and zesty feast of flavors with every slurp and is thought of as an excellent remedy for a cold or flu bug, as it will instantly clear your sinuses and warm you up.

Made with shrimp or prawns, this soup comes together quickly and makes a wonderful weeknight dinner. Despite the number of ingredients, once you have everything ready and chopped, this nutritious soup will be ready without a hassle. Great for a family meal, the soup is also a great option for a celebratory dinner, as shrimp add an elegant touch. As with many dishes in Thailand, serving the soup with a side of steamed rice is always an excellent choice, but if you'd rather enjoy the soup as is, it will still be an amazing main dish.

Our method does have the choice of adding coconut milk—which then makes the soup a Tom Kha—or leaving it out. If you'd prefer a richer-tasting soup, try adding it, whereas if you prefer a clearer soup, try it without. In Thailand, evaporated milk is often used instead of coconut milk when making Tom Yum Kung. The soup is meant to be spicy, but if your spice o'meter can handle some more, add a dollop of nam prik pao chili sauce, either store-bought or homemade, or serve it on the side so each guest can add some to taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chicken stock

  • 1/2 teaspoon makrut lime leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon lime zest

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, minced; or 3 tablespoons prepared lemongrass, or with 3 lemon slices

  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon galangal, or ginger; grated

  • 2 teaspoons red chili, minced; or 1 to 2 teaspoons Thai chili sauce

  • 1 handful shiitake mushrooms, sliced

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus more to taste

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more to taste

  • 12 medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

  • 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

  • Optional: Broccoli florets, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced baby bok choy

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather ingredients.

    Traditional Tom Yum Kung ingredients

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  2. Place the stock in a large pot over high heat. Add the makrut lime leave, minced lemongrass, and any leftover lemongrass stalks if you're using fresh lemongrass. Bring to a boil.

    stock lemongrass and lime leaves in a pot

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  3. When the soup reaches a bubbling boil, reduce the heat to medium, or a steady simmer. Add the garlic, galangal, chili, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Stir well and simmer for 3 minutes.

    Add the garlic, ginger, chili, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce and soy sauce to the pot

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  4. Add the shrimp and any other vegetables, if using. Simmer until shrimp are pink and plump, or about 3 minutes.

    add shrimp and vegetables to the soup

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the coconut milk or evaporated milk if using. Taste-test the soup, looking for a balance of salty, sour, and spicy. If not salty or flavorful enough, add 1 additional tablespoon of fish sauce or soy sauce. If too sour, add more sugar. If too spicy and/or salty, add another squeeze of lime juice.

    add coconut milk to the soup in the pot

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro

    Traditional Tom Yum Kung

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  7. Enjoy!

Vegan Tom Yum

This tasty soup can easily be made into a vegan alternative. The bulk of the flavors come from the herbs and seasonings, so replacing the shrimp with extra firm pressed cubed tofu will still give you a fantastic dish. We recommend using the optional vegetables to give the soup a hearty consistency and to add other vegetables like snap peas or other types of mushrooms, as their meatiness will bring a lot of flavor and texture. To make this soup a plant-based meal simply:

  • Replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Replace the fish sauce with 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy plus 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce.