Otherwise known as Tom Yum Kung, this recipe is easy to make, light and fragrant, and it packs a wallop of flavor from the shellfish-scented broth to the tingle of hot chilies.
1 pound medium shrimp
1/4 cup lime juice
4 teaspoons nam pla (bottled Thai fish sauce)
1/4 cup minced green chilies (more or less to taste)
2 tablespoons thin slices of fresh lemongrass plus 2 teaspoons very finely minced lemongrass from the tenderest part of the stalk (minced almost to a paste)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 quart chicken stock
2 tablespoons dried Kaffir lime leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh cilantro roots and stems plus 2 heaping tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
2 thick slices dried galanga root
2 medium shallots, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons dried tamarind pulp
1/2 cup straw mushrooms
2 teaspoons minced scallion
1. Shell the shrimp, reserving the shells. Devein and butterfly each shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl, and mix with 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, 2 teaspoons of the fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of the minced green chilies, and 1 teaspoon of the lemongrass minced almost to a paste. Set aside.
2. Add the vegetable oil to a soup pot over high heat. Add the shrimp shells, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the shells have started to brown. Immediately add the chicken stock, 2 tablespoons of the minced chilies, the 2 tablespoons of sliced lemongrass, the Kafflr lime leaves, the cilantro roots and stems, the galanga root, the shallots, and the tamarind pulp. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Strain the soup into a clean pot over moderately high heat, pressing liquid out of the solids in the strainer. Discard the solids. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice, the remaining 2 teaspoons of fish sauce, the remaining 1 tablespoon of minced chili, the remaining teaspoon of lemongrass paste, the straw mushrooms, the fresh cilantro leaves, and the minced scallion. Stir well. Just before serving, add the shrimp along with the shrimp marinade. Warm until the shrimp are just cooked (about 30 seconds), and serve immediately.
Soups are tremendously popular in Thailand, and this soup is one of the favorites there. It's little wonder that it has also become a Thai restaurant staple in the United States: it's easy to make, it's light, and it packs a wallop of flavor from the shellfish-scented broth to the tingle of hot chilies. This version of the classic has even more punch, because the shrimp are marinated with Thai flavorings. Serves 4