There’s one dish that never fails to please – it has all the elements of being zesty and tangy – sharp flavoured with a mix of sourness, saltiness and spiciness. I am talking about “Tom Yum”.
Tom yum is a Thai dish. It is the boiling process (“tom”) of a sourish and spicy salad (“yum”). It sounds a bit strange and foreign to those who are not familiar with Thai food. But, not for me. I love Thai food. It is one of my favourite cuisines.
There are a few key ingredients that go into making this aromatic spicy broth to go with either prawns, fish, chicken or a mix of seafood ingredients. The success of a good tom yum is the broth itself. It has to have the right balance of sourness, sweetness, saltiness and spicyness.
In my cooking, I use my senses – sight and scent – to adjust the taste and flavour of my food. In Penang coloquail dialect, “hokkien”, it is commonly refer to as “arh gark, arh gark”. Meaning using your own judgement or “guessing”.
The basic ingredients I use to make my tom yum broth are:
- 1 lemongrass stalk, broken into half bruised
- 10 kaffir lime leaves
- A generous bunch of coriander stalks with leaves and roots (cleaned first)
- A generous bunch of spring onions stalks (white part only)
- 6 dried chillies
- 2 bird eye chillies
- 1 inch galangal
- 1 lime (adjust to your own taste. More if you prefer more sourness)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (adjust to your own taste. More if you prefer more saltiness)
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 litre of water
- Fill a pot with 1 litre of water. Add lemongrass, coriander, spring onions, galangal, chillies, kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce
- Gently cook at medium heat. Once bubbling, turn the heat to low to slow simmer to diffuse the different flavours from the fragrant herbs
- Cook for an hour. Then add the fish and prawns. The sweetness comes from the seafood
- Optional. I have some fried puff tofu in my fridge. I love puff tofu in curry and spiced gravy dish. It has a bouncy texture that expands in size as it soaks up the broth. When crunched, the aromatic broth oozes with a delicate mixture of spices in the mouth
- Other optional produce you could add – button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes for a bit of colour. All sliced up and tossed into the broth. Do not use a strongly flavoured mushroom. It will ruin and alter the flavour of the tom yum broth
- To serve, garnish with more coriander and chopped spring onions, with a bowl of jasmine rice