For many people tasting Thai food for the first time, there is a strong chance it will be Tom Yum soup. Often called Hot and Sour soup as well, it is traditionally made with shrimp (prawns). Our recipe today is quick and simple. Only 15 minutes’ preparation time, including making the all-important stock and a further 5 minutes of cooking. No need to go for Thai carry-out, make your own Tom Yum Soup and impress your family and friends.
Welcome to our first Thai recipe at Compass and Fork. There is no doubting Thai food’s popularity right across the world. Traveling to Thailand is something many people look forward, as evidenced by the fact that Bangkok is the world’s 10th busiest airport.
It’s not just the beaches, Buddhist temples, smiles, the gentle nature of the people, but also the food. And as a bonus, eating out in Thailand is cheap, particularly street food, which sometimes set us back less than $1 per head.
And all of those herbs and spices used in Thai cooking are extremely healthy for you, so it is a great cuisine to master at home if you are looking for a healthier diet.
Thai Food Essentials
Like Vietnamese cuisine, there is a strong emphasis on vegetables. Meat or seafood is “just another ingredient” to Thais and not the centerpiece like it tends to be in the West. This also helps keep the cost down.
There is a huge emphasis on herbs and spices in Thailand. Of course, Thailand is famous for its chilies but they were only introduced to the country by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. However, Thai people took to the new import with a vengeance believing chilies cool the body, stimulate the appetite and bring balance and harmony to the food.
A Thai meal always offers a combination of flavors: sweet, spicy, sour, salty and sometimes bitter. It is the herbs and spices used that provide these combinations and Thai cooking is closely derived from the use of herbs and spices in traditional herbal medicines. The essence of many types of herbs can aid in regulating the circulatory system of the body.
To eat alone is considered a misfortune. Thais usually consume a multi-course meal, with everything being served at once, including the soup. And the soup is not consumed all in one hit but rather sipped throughout the meal in between other selections, as if it was a drink. More often than not they eat on the street. The Chinese introduced street food to Thailand.
Alcohol is drunk, with beer the most popular selection. It is moderately taxed and is not a bargain like the food. The cost is about the same as in the West, maybe slightly cheaper depending what you are used to. Wine is expensive in Thailand. It is heavily taxed and maybe it is a climate not suited to drinking it anyway. Juices are prevalent and good and make a good mixer with spirits or hard liquor. But the most popular drink with meals is water and tea, with Thai whisky making an appearance during festivities. Bottled water is available everywhere.
FREE PRINTABLE SHOPPING LIST
All the specialty ingredients you need to make the Thai recipes on Compass & Fork on one handy printable shopping list.
Tom Yum Soup
Tom Yum Soup is a great dish to cut your teeth on if you are new to Thai cooking. It’s spicy, hot and sour. It contains galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves, which have known properties to reduce gas, relieve dizziness and indigestion. Apart from that, it is a symphony of flavor and with only 5 minutes cooking time it is quick to make.
When shopping for Thai ingredients, you will find the major items in supermarkets but not everything you need to complete your Thai kitchen. It is a good idea to source a good, Asian grocer in your area. I have found they are usually cheaper than a supermarket and they are more than happy to answer any questions you have.
Become a subscriber to Compass and Fork and you can download the Asian Cooking Essentials guide. In it we have cataloged many of the Asian ingredients with a description of the item and a color picture to help you identify it. It covers Vietnamese and Thai ingredients.
More Winter Soup Recipes
Fancy some other soups to try from around the world. How about:
If you like spicy soups, here is one from Vietnam. Beef Noodle Pho is gaining popularity all over the world. Find out why.
Here are two more popular soups world-wide. Black bean soup is simple to make and the garnish gives this one a real lift. And Butternut Squash Soup is another easy soup to make, this one is served with quinoa.