Tom Yum, Thailand's culinary delight

SIAM Tom Yam paste
Tom Yum Goong, a hot and sour soup with shrimp, is a Thai culinary gem with a perfect balance of flavors.

Tom Yum, Thailand's culinary delight

Tom Yum Goong, the iconic Thai soup renowned for its bold flavors and aromatic spices, holds a special place not only in Thailand's culinary landscape but also in the hearts of food enthusiasts worldwide. It is not only a symbol of Thai culinary heritage but also a testament to the country's ability to craft dishes that appeal universally.

Tom Yum Goong is more than just a soup; it's a journey through Thailand's history, culture, and culinary creativity. Its evolution from a medicinal tonic to a beloved staple showcases the dynamic nature of cuisine and its ability to adapt while maintaining its essence.

Whether enjoyed at a lively street vendor in Bangkok or at an upscale restaurant in another country, Tom Yum Goong exemplifies how flavors can unite people across borders in their mutual love for outstanding food. It is more than just a mere meal; it is an experience that binds individuals together.

Tom Yam soup
Tom Yum soup is an institution in Bangkok !

Historical Roots

Despite being one of the nation's most renowned culinary creations and having been passed down for generations, it is still unclear where Tom Yum Goong originated from.

However, it is widely believed that the recipe was invented in Central Thailand, due to the abundance of the region's freshwater shrimp. It might have also been influenced by other countries, especially China and India. For example, Thai soup and curry dishes, as well as the use of lemongrass and galangal in Tom Yum, can be traced back to Chinese and Indian culinary traditions. Thai people's ingenuity is evident in this renowned soup, which not only tantalizes the taste buds but also showcases their talent for transforming medicinal remedies into delectable dishes.

According to ancient belief, Tom Yum Goong was developed from the traditional use of Thai herbal medicine. By skillfully incorporating fragrant herbs and spices into the broth, Tom Yum achieves a harmonious fusion of flavors that serve both culinary and therapeutic purposes.
The potent blend of these ingredients is believed to offer numerous health advantages, such as strengthening the immune system and facilitating digestion.

Tom Yam paste SIAM
Tom Yum upholds a pristine reputation for being one of Thailand's most iconic dishes

A Taste of Tradition

Tom Yum Goong is a spicy and sour soup typically made with shrimp (Goong), though other protein options like chicken, fish, or even tofu can also be used.

The name "Tom Yum" or "Tom Yum" is composed of two Thai words. “Tom” refers to the boiling process, while Yum (or Yam) means the action of mixing ingredients together to achieve the blend of sweet, sour and spicy notes. Therefore, when ‘Tom’ and ‘Yum are used as one they literally refer to a spicy and sour broth or soup. The dish is characterized by its bold combination of ingredients, including lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and Thai chilies. This mix of flavors results in a complex and satisfying taste and aroma.

The Magical ingredients of Tom Yum Goong

The magic of Tom Yum Goong lies in its unique blend of ingredients, each contributing to its vibrant flavor profile. Lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal are considered the holy trinity of ingredients in Tom Yum Goong.

These aromatic components contribute to the distinct and refreshing flavors of the soup. While the exact timing of their inclusion in the recipe is unclear, it is believed that they were gradually incorporated into the soup as it evolved. These ingredients lend a unique Thai touch to Tom Yum Goong and have become synonymous with this iconic dish.

Fish sauce and chilies add depth and heat to the dish, while straw mushrooms provide a contrasting texture. The dish is typically topped with jumbo shrimp, adding a succulent seafood flavor that perfectly complements the spicy and sour broth.


Tom Yum street vendor


Variations of Tom Yum

While Tom Yum Goong is now considered a national dish of Thailand, there are variations of the dish that have emerged across different regions of the country as well. However, the two main variations you commonly find are "Tom Yum Nam Sai" and "Tom Yum Nam Khon." "Tom Yum Nam Sai" translates to "clear soup," and it is the lighter and more traditional version of the soup. It retains the characteristic sour and spicy flavors of Tom Yum but lacks the creaminess found in its counterpart.

On the other hand, "Tom Yum Nam Khon" is a creamier version of the soup, often made with evaporated milk or non-dairy creamer powder. This variation adds a rich and velvety texture to the soup, creating a unique taste experience.

Even more different ingredients may be used, depending on the exact variety of Tom Yum, such as:

  • Tom Yum Pla (Tom Yum with fish)
  • Tom Yum Po Taek or Tom Yum Thale (Tom Yum with seafood)
  • Tom Yum Kung Maphrao On Nam Khon (Tom Yum with the meat of a young coconut and a dash of coconut milk or evaporated milk)
  • Tom Yum Mun Goong (Tom Yum with shrimp and shrimp paste with soybean oil)
  • Tom Yum Kha Mu (Tom Yum with pork leg) and more.

Time to Cook!

Cooking Tom Yum at home isn’t difficult, but sourcing and preparing all right ingredients, especially fresh herbs can cause you a headache, so using ready-for-cook Tom Yum paste can be a good option especially those who don’t have much time for cooking. Check out our instant Tom Yum soup that can help you get an authentic Tom Yum flavor in less than 10 minutes.