Tom Yum Soup with Coconut Milk/Tom Khaa

For Marcy

This is great company soup and it is so easy to make. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare (if the soup stock is already made) and 15 minutes to cook. It has two unusual ingredients in it that are unique to Thai cooking: lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf. When it is fresh, kaffir lime leaf is a brilliant green. This one has been frozen and then defrosted. Another ingredient in this soup is fresh shiitake mushrooms. These are sold dried in Chinese shops but fresh, they are firm yet tender and have a smoky flavor. To prepare, just rinse and cut off the woody stems.


  • 3-4 cups chicken stock (this makes enough soup to serve 2 people – double the recipe for 4 or more)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, lower 1/3 minced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (available fresh or frozen at Asian food stores)
  • 12-14 medium or large raw shrimp, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 small red chilies, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • optional: 1 green and/or red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2-1 can (1-2 cups) coconut milk (add to taste)
  • 1/3 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • optional: additional red chilies or chili garlic sauce (1-2 tsp.)
  • optional: 1 teaspoon brown sugar and a squeeze of lime juice
  1. To make the soup stock, put chicken pieces with the bone in, in a pot of water. Do not boil. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 1-1 1/2 hours. Strain. Discard the chicken pieces.
  2. To prepare the lemongrass, peel off the outer leaves until the part near the roots is pale green or pale yellow in color. Cut off about 1 1/2 inches near the root and discard. Cut off any wilted leaves or parts of wilted leaves. Slice the lemongrass into thin rounds towards the green leaves, leaving about a 3-5 inch stem with leaves.  Process the lemongrass rounds in a food processor until the pieces are fine. 
  3. Pour stock into a deep cooking pot and turn heat to medium-high.
  4. Add processed lemongrass to the pot, including the top part of the lemongrass stalk. Boil for 5 minutes, or until fragrant.
  5. Add garlic, chili, kaffir lime leaves, and mushrooms to broth. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add shrimp, bell pepper, if using, and cherry tomatoes. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and plump.
  7. Turn down the heat to low and add coconut milk plus fish sauce. The soup should be milky in appearance. I used frozen coconut cream that I whizzed in the food processor to get creamy again.
  8. Here’s the fun part: seasoning it to taste! Taste the soup for spice and salt, adding more chili and/or fish sauce (instead of salt) as desired. If too sour for your taste, add 1 tsp. brown sugar; if too salty, add a squeeze of lime juice. Add more coconut milk if you want your soup richer/creamier, or if it’s too spicy for your taste.
  9. Serve at once in bowls with fresh coriander sprinkled on top. From the looks of it, I think this could have done with more coconut milk in the soup.