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Traditional Tom Yum Kung

User Rating 5 Star Rating (2 Reviews)


Tom Yum Kung
Dangdumrong/E+/Getty Images
Tom Yum Kung is the most famous of all Thai soup recipes. If you want authentic Tom Yum Kung soup (without coconut milk), this is the one! Featuring all four of the famous Thai spices - salty, sour, sweet and spicy - this Tom Yum Kung recipe provides a pungent and zesty feast of flavors with every slurp. An excellent remedy for a cold or flu bug, this spicy Thai soup will instantly clear your sinuses and warm you up. It's also highly nutritious and is sure to impress at any dinner party. Note: this recipe allows you the choice of adding coconut milk (Tom Kha) or leaving it out. If you prefer a richer-tasting soup, I recommend adding it; whereas if you prefer a clearer soup, try it wihtout. ENJOY!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: SERVES 3-4


  • 6 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 2-3 kaffir lime leaves (can be purchased at most Asian food stores), OR 1/2 tsp. lime zest
  • 2 stalks minced lemongrass, OR 3 Tbsp. frozen/bottled prepared lemongrass (or substitute 3 slices lemon)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated galangal OR ginger
  • 1 fresh red chili, minced, OR 1-2 tsp. Thai chili sauce, OR 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili OR cayenne pepper
  • generous handful of fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce (if you dislike the smell of fish sauce, see below for substitution*)
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 12 medium to large shrimp, shells removed
  • handful of fresh basil
  • optional: other vegetables of your choice: 1 handful of broccoli, cherry tomatoes, or baby bok choy
  • optional: 1/2 cup coconut milk OR Carnation evaporated milk (the latter is often used in Thailand for traditional tom yum kung)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander/cilantro


  1. Place stock in a large pot over high heat. Add the minced lemongrass (and leftover lemongrass stalks, if using fresh lemongrass), plus lime leaves. Bring to a boil.
  2. When soup reaches a bubbling boil, reduce heat to medium, or until you get a nice simmer. Add the garlic, galangal/ginger, chili, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce and soy sauce. Stir well and simmer 3 minutes.
  3. Add the shrimp plus other vegetables, if using. Simmer until shrimp are pink and plump (about 3 minutes).
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the coconut milk or Carnation milk (if using). Now taste-test the soup, looking for a balance of salty, sour, and spicy. If not salty or flavorful enough, add 1 Tbsp. more fish sauce OR soy sauce. If too sour, add more sugar. If too spicy (Tom Yum is meant to be spicy!), add a little coconut or Carnation milk. If too salty, add another squeeze of lime juice.
  5. For those who like addtional spice/flavor, add a dollop of Thai Nam Prik Pao chili sauce, either store-bought or the homemade Thai Nam Prik Pao Chili Sauce Recipe . It can also be served on the side in small dishes, so each person can add as much as they prefer.
  6. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of fresh coriander. ENJOY!

For a thicker, slightly richer version of this soup, see my popular Tom Khaa (Tom Yum Soup with Coconut Milk).

*Instead of Fish Sauce: For those who dislike the smell of fish sauce: substitute 1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce + 1 Tbsp. regular soy sauce.

User Reviews

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 5 out of 5
Like our Favorite Thai Restaurant!T, Member daisysissylee

This soup turned out very much like the one we usually order from our favorite Thai restaurant in the city. I actually preferred it, since I could make it with as much chili as I can tolerate (I'm not a total wimp, but medium-spiced is enough otherwise I can't taste anything else!). I highly recommend adding a touch of coconut milk - have made it both ways and it's a nicer soup with the coocnut milk added. Anyway, that's how they make it at our favorite restaurant (I asked!).

16 out of 16 people found this helpful.

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