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Tom Yam Gung


Take fresh prawns, straw mushrooms and stock, add one part lemongrass, one part lime and one part napalm and serve – Thailand’s favourite soup is a chilli-laced masterpiece.

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This recipe comes from The World’s Best Bowl Food, published last month by Lonely Planet, which features recipes from 46 destinations around the world – from soup to poké bowls, pho, pasta, stews and desserts.

Tom Yam Gung

Serves 4


Reproduced with permission from The World’s Best Bowl Food © 2018 Lonely Planet.

3 cups (750ml) fish or chicken stock
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
5 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 2.5cm slices
4 thin galangal slices
200g straw mushrooms, sliced lengthways
10 bird’s-eye chillies, cut lengthways
3 tbs fish sauce
5 kaffir lime leaves
260g raw prawns (shrimp), washed, peeled and de-veined
Juice from 1 lime
Handful of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish


In a pan or wok, bring the stock to the boil, then add the garlic, shallots, lemongrass and galangal.

Add the straw mushrooms, chillies, fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves.

Return to the boil for 2–3 minutes, then add the prawns (shrimp) and cook until just done.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime juice, then stir and serve, garnishing each portion with chopped coriander.

Tasting Notes

Floating pools of red chilli oil provide the first warning that something fiery lurks beneath the surface of this seafood soup. Vapours of lemongrass, galangal and lime rise up, promising a visceral tour through the flavours of South-East Asia. The first sensation is the tang of lime but, almost immediately, the chilli takes control.

This is a dish to eat quickly, without pausing, in case the fire proves too powerful to quench. The main ingredients – prawns (shrimp) and mushrooms – are secondary to the complex take-no-prisoners blend of spices and seasonings. Each takes its own moment to shine; some spoonfuls dominated by lemongrass and lime, others by chilli and medicinal notes of galangal. Keep tissues to hand…


Ubiquitous across the Malay Peninsula, tom yam is a fiery palate-cleanser that is served everywhere from Thailand and Laos to Malaysia and Singapore. Prawns have been farmed in Thai creeks for centuries, so the dish may have its roots far from the sea, but liberal use of chilli dates tom yam to after the 17th century, when the first ones were transported to South-East Asia from South America by Portuguese seafarers.

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