This version of Tom Yum soup (the popular Thai spicy soup) is eaten in the North of Thailand, it is made with chicken rather than the shrimp (tom yum gung) eaten in the south and coast.
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 a classic, easy to make, Thai soup that goes very well as a part of a full Thai dinner.
The quality of the chicken is the most important thing for this dish. In Thailand, this would preferably be made with free range chickens. Thai free range chickens are scrawny little things that are constantly underfoot in just about any small village you’d pass through. They’ve very little meat, almost no fat at all and they’re far from tender – but they taste great. They taste like chicken should taste like…chickeny.
If you can, use free range chicken for this dish. If you use supermarket chicken, try to trim as much fat as you can from the chicken prior to cooking, to more closely replicate a Thai free range chicken. Do not try to make this with chicken breast – as the bones are essential to give the soup some body.
Thai Tom Yum Gai (Tom Yum Chicken)
- ½ lb of chicken thighs or other bone in parts
- 4 cups of water
- 5 – ½ inch thin slices of galangal root
- 3 stalks of lemongrass cut into 1 inch segments
- 4 shallots – cut in half
- 1 tsp of salt
- 2 Tbls of fish sauce
- 5-15 small dried Thai bird chilies (the really small and spicy ones), depending on how spicy you like it
- 3 lime leaves
- 1 tsp of MSG
- 2-3 Tbls of lime juice (or more to taste)
- Heat a little oil in a skillet or wok over medium. When hot, drop your chilies in and fry them, stirring constantly, until they have browned slightly, but not blackened – about 1 minute.
- Chop the chicken thighs up with a cleaver into segments.
- In a pot, mix in the water, the lemongrass, the galangal, the chilies, the shallots, the lime leaves, the salt, the fish sauce and the MSG. Bring the soup to a boil.
- Once boiling, add in the chicken parts and boil until the chicken has just cooked through, 5 minutes or so, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. (Thai cooks prefer to add the chicken in after the water comes to a boil to reduce the strength of the broth, which is different from how Western cooks traditionally make soup)
- Once the chicken has cooked through, turn off the heat and add in your freshly squeezed lime juice. Taste, and add more fish or lime juice to taste – it should be sour/salty and spicy!
Serve with steamed jasmine rice and enjoy.
The cooking class at Suwannee is an ideal home-style learning environment that is different from most of the opportunities in the hotels and restaurants in Thailand. Not will you be only watch and participate in the cooking of a number of traditional Thai dishes; also as part of our course we visit a local market to learn about local exotic fruits and vegetables, there is always an abundance of new things to see……and taste!