Thai Tom Yum Goong

Our run of cool days here in Munich continues, with cool, drizzly weather keeping us mostly inside, apart from short sprints to the markets. I am definitely not complaining about the temperature, as it is the perfect excuse to start the soup-making season. And what better soup to start with than Thailand’s most famous soup recipe: Tom Yum Goong, hot and sour prawn soup.

I learnt to make Tom Yum or Tom Yam at a wonderful cooking school in Bangkok. Tucked inside a tiny old colonial house in a sidestreet of the Silom Road, our class sweated over gas cookers and enormous mortar and pestles producing a whole load of different recipes. I think the most popular recipe of all was the Tom Yum Soup, as despite the heat in our little kitchen we all slurped up every last drop.

Tom Yum Goong is very simple to make at home, though you do need a few specific ingredients. It’s a wonderful way to use up the whole prawns, as rather than throwing the heads and shells away, they are cooked up into an incredibly fragrant stock which forms the base of this soup. I swear, as soon as this starts cooking on the stove, the aroma transports me directly back to Bangkok!

It’s traditional in Tom Yum Goong to have stacks of bird’s eye chillies floating around in the finished soup. These are not for eating but a decoration that adds some spice. At home, I find this a bit wasteful, so I cook the chillies into the stock and use just one or two for garnish. If you are a real spice lover or grow chillies at home, go ahead and throw a whole lot in there!

As there are a couple of specific ingredients in this recipe, I have suggested possible substitutions below. Do try to get your hands on the real thing though, your taste buds will thank you for it.

Have you travelled to beautiful Thailand before? What’s your favourite Thai meal? Let me know in the comments below. xJ

Thai Tom Yum Goong

Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!

Thai Tom Yum Goong

Thai Tom Yum Goong

Yield: Serves 2-3
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Tom Yum Goong, Thailand’s famous hot and spicy soup with prawns is surprisingly easy to make at home. With just a few ingredients you can make this mouthwateringly good dish in your own kitchen. Warning: for spice lovers only!


for the stock:

  • 250g whole large prawns, with heads and shells on (see note)
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies
  • 3cm galangal, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, cut into three
  • 125ml chicken or vegetable stock

for the soup:

  • 2 tsp Thai chilli paste (Nam Prik Pao)
  • 200g mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 tomato, halved finely sliced
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
  • extra chilli, sliced
  • extra kaffir lime leaf, very finely sliced

to serve:

  • basmati or jasmine rice


    1. Cut the heads off the prawns and peel the tails leaving the end of the tail intact. Place shells and heads into a saucepan with the torn lime leaves. Place the chillies, galangal, garlic and lemongrass into a mortar and pestle (see note) and use the pestle to bruise the ingredients - you are not making a paste, just giving them a bit of a whack to release the flavours.
    2. Add the chillies, galangal, garlic and lemongrass to the saucepan, cover with 750ml of water and add the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid left slightly ajar. Turn the heat right down and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
    3. After 10 minutes, strain the stock, discarding the solids, and return the stock to the saucepan. Stir through the chilli paste, then add the mushrooms, onion and tomato and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the prawns and cook a further 3 minutes, then stir in the fish sauce and sugar.
    4. Add the lime juice and adjust seasoning to taste. With all Thai food, there is a balance of spicy, sweet and sour, so it’s important to taste the soup and alter the recipe by adding more chilli, lime juice, fish sauce or sugar depending on what you like.
    5. Divide between serving bowls and garnish with coriander, chilli and finely sliced kaffir lime leaves. Serve with rice or noodles.


Large, raw tiger prawns or similar are the best for this soup, but if you can only get cooked, they will work too. The important part is that they have heads and shells intact.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 634Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 232mgSodium: 2640mgCarbohydrates: 74gFiber: 5gSugar: 10gProtein: 46g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.


Do I have to make this soup spicy?

Traditionally this is an extremely spicy dish and I have already dialled the spice back quite a lot to suit the Western tongue. You can reduce the chilli a little, and try adding a tablespoon or two of coconut or evaporated milk to the finished soup, this is actually a separate dish known as Tom Kha and it is often made with chicken instead of prawns or shrimp.

What can I use to substitute the ingredients in Tom Yum Goong?

You can substitute galangal for fresh ginger. Kaffir lime leaves have a very distinctive flavour but can be substituted with the leaves of other citrus trees, or a little bit of finely grated lime zest. Only add the lime zest at the end of the cooking time, otherwise, it can be bitter. Look out for frozen kaffir lime leaves at your local Asian grocer. Thai Chilli Paste (Nam Prik Pao) can be substituted with other chilli pastes, eg. sambal oelek or sriracha.

Can I make this recipe without seafood?

Tom Yum soup can be made with other meats or simply with vegetables. Tom Yum Gai made with chicken is very popular. You’ll need to start with chicken stock instead and poach thinly sliced chicken breasts in the finished soup.

Thai Tom Yum Goong

Making your own stock from the prawn shells is so satisfying and the flavour is amazing!

Thai Tom Yum Goong


Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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