Written by Rae
Photos by Ben
We make this soup about once a week. The broth is rich from coconut milk, and is balanced by the saltiness of fish sauce and the tang and acidity from lime juice. It’s not your bowl of chicken noodle soup or minestrone or whatever Westerners like to eat, but it’ll warm your heart just as much.
I used to make the chicken version, Tom Yum Gai which is a mushroom soup with chicken, but lately we haven’t been eating a lot of meat, so we just load it up with veggies instead. I’ve never been to Thailand or Southeast Asia, so I don’t know what the Tom Yum tastes like there – but I started making this soup after my sister (who has visited Thailand) became interested in Thai cooking. She recommended this recipe because it is easy and tasty. I have a feeling she cooks a lot like me, so she did not give me any measurements when she told me this recipe. Instead, you must rely on tasting the soup during the cooking process to make sure it’s a good balance of salty and sour. It turns out great each time we make it!
Ingredients you need:
1 lemon grass stalk, a few kefir lime leaves, a few slices of galang galang (you can buy these 3 ingredients in a pack together at the Foreign Mart in the produce section for around 3,000 KRW).
lime juice (we use the lime juice in the plastic lime, cos let’s be real, limes here are hella expensive!)
other vegetables of your choice and cilantro
To make the chicken version, Tom Yum Gai you can just use mushrooms (we like shitake or 표고버섯 in Korean) and chicken breast. For the vegetable version like we do, feel free to add whichever vegetables you like. If you are a vegetarian, you can omit the fish sauce and add salt instead to make the soup salty. Although, the fish sauce adds a nice saltiness and tang to the broth.
To make this dish, first add the can of coconut milk with one or two cans of water, depending on your taste. We add two cans because we make a huge batch at once. Simmer 1 stalk of bruised lemon grass, some kefir lime leaves, and few pieces of galang galang in the broth.
Cut up your mushrooms and vegetables and add to the simmering stalk. Add enough fish sauce and lime juice to your taste. We add a lot of fish sauce because that’s what gives the broth depth, so don’t be shy. Serve with cilantro on top!