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Tom yum goong

October 3, 2011

It’s ok if you don’t know how to pronounce it.  There won’t be a test at the end.

But if you’ve ever eaten at a Thai restaurant, chances are, you’ve seen this on the menu.  Perhaps you’ve even tried it before.  And if you’re anything like my husband, you love this stuff.  So, it’s really ok if you don’t know how to pronounce it, just know that it’s amazingly delicious!

Tom yum goong is an ultra flavorful hot and sour Thai soup that has become popular the world over.  The basic tom yum broth is made of stock with an addition of fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, galangal (similar to ginger), fish sauce, tamarind, and crushed chili peppers.

Like other types of food, tom yum comes in many variations and chefs all have their different interpretations as to what should be included in the soup.  Goong, or shrimp, is the most popular item will find in tom yum. But sometimes it’s also made with gai, or chicken for those who don’t like seafood and/or shrimp.  Sometimes, tom yum can also be flavored by young coconut meat, or sometimes coconut milk is also used as a thickening agent for the broth itself.  In the States, it’s very popular to use cilantro, green onions and mushrooms as an addition to the soup.  Also, these days tom yum broth is often a distinct orange color, which is caused by the chili oil that is added to the broth.  But just because you see broth that’s not orange, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not tom yum.  In Thai, tom yum, basically means the act of flavoring, so the act of just flavoring a broth makes it tom yum.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if it has coconut milk added to the broth like the way they make it at Rock Sugar in Los Angeles:

Or at Platinum shopping center food court in Bangkok:

Or if it’s missing the chili oil that turns it a distinctive orange, the way they make it at Mongkut Thai in San Clemente:

Of if it’s full of tamarind flavor like it is made at Thai Lingo in Orange:

Or if it’s full of spice and chili and burn-your-mouth hotness like they make it at Amphawa in Thailand:

Or if its made with terrific balance of flavor and heat like they make it at Jim Thompson’s Cafe in Bangkok:

However it’s made, it’s always made delicious!  So, if you walk into a Thai restaurant and tom yum goong is too hard for you to pronounce, don’t worry, just tell them you want that delicious and flavorful hot and sour Thai soup!  They’ll know exactly what you mean.


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