Tom Yum Talay: An extremely popular Thai soup characterised by its distinctive sweet, sour and spicy flavour due to addition of fragrant spices and herbs indigenous to Southeast Asia. You can either cook it with seafood (Tom Yum Talay), prawns (Tom Yum Khoong), or chicken (Tom Yum Gai), and its a great dish to serve as an appetiser!
Tom Yum originates from Thailand, the land of smiles of holds many wonderful memories for me and my hubby. Tom Yum is considered the mother of all Thai soups and is characterised by its distinctive sweet, sour and spicy flavour. It is usually cooked with prawn (Tom Yum Khoong), seafood (Tom Yum Talay) or chicken (Tum Yum Gai) and fragrant spices and herbs. This soup is very popular both in Thailand and all around the world, and is one of our favourite Thai dishes.
I learnt this recipe from my Thai friend’s 70-plus year old grandmother when I visited them in Chanthaburi, a province east of Thailand which is famous for its seafood and local agricultural produce. I expected it to be a one-to-one cooking lesson, so I was shocked with the whole village, including my friend, his parents, his uncles and aunties all came out to help out with all the food preparation in their large open-air communal kitchen. It was really an eye-opening experience for me, and I will write another blog post about that once I have compiled all my photos taken on that trip. I’m so happy to be able to learn the really authentic Thai style preparation method for this dish, and want to share it here on the blog.
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There are 2 versions of Tom Yum soup: One is the clear soup, called Tom Yum Nam Sai (Nam means water and Sai is clear) and the other is Tom Yum Nam Khon (Khon means milky and creamy, because of the coconut milk which is added to it). I prefer the clear soup version, and so the recipe I’m sharing does not contain coconut milk. Of course, one of the main ingredients in Thai food is the Thai fish sauce without which it will lose its authenticity.
More Thai Recipes:
- Thai Pineapple Fried Rice (Khao Phad Saparod)
- Thai Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Neow Ma Muang)
- Thai Wok-Smoked Lemongrass Mullet
- Thai Red Ruby in Fresh Coconut Milk (Tub Tim Grob)
The homemade prawn soup base is made by frying prawn heads and prawn shells with garlic until fragrant, and then simmer in boiling water until the orange-coloured layer of oil appears. In the recipe, I have stated 12 prawn heads for use in the soup base. However I usually add about double that amount (24 prawn heads) for a richer stock, because I always keep a ready stock of prawn heads in the freezer for making Tom Yum soup and other prawn stock based dishes like Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee (Fried Hae Mee / 炒福建虾面), East-meets-West Pork and Prawn Macaroni and Prawn Noodles (虾面/Hae Mee) with Pork Ribs just to name a few! So if you don’t already, I encourage you to start saving the prawn head and shells when deveining prawns, as they will make your prawn stock based dishes extra tasty!
When cooking a one pot dish like Tom Yum Talay, it’s very important to consider the different cooking times of the different ingredients. Seafood like squid, prawns and fish slices cook really quickly, and if you add it in too early, they will tend to overcook and become tough and rubbery, which really ruins the dish for me. That’s why I only add the seafood in at the end for about 30 seconds before turning off the heat. Don’t forget that the hot soup will continue to cook the seafood, so by the time it is served, the seafood should be tender and just cooked through.
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Tom Yum Talay
- 12 big Medium Size Prawns
- 1 tsp Sugar To marinate the prawn
- 1/2 tsp Salt To marinate the prawn
- 250 gm Grouper Fillet
- 1 1/2 tsp Thai Fish Sauce To marinate the fish
- 1/4 tsp Pepper To marinate the fish
- 2 big Squid
- 2 stalk Lemon Grass
- 1 1/2 Thumb-size Galangal ( Blue Ginger )
- 4 TBsp Oil To fry the prawn heads and shells
- 1 TBsp Chopped Garlic To fry the prawn heads and shells
- 4-5 cloves Sliced Garlic To add to the soup
- 8-10 Thai Lime Leaves (Limau Purut)
- 5-6 pieces Tamarind Rind (Assam Skin)
- 2 Chilli padi
- 3/4 TBsp Thai Chilli Paste Can be substituted with chilli oil
- 3-4 TBsp Thai Fish Sauce To add to the soup
- 250 gm Oyster Mushroom
- 4-5 Thai Lime Extract 1/2 cups of lime juice
- 3-4 tsp Sugar
- 1-2 Sprigs (Optional) Parsley For garnishing
Preparation Method for Tom Yam Talay (30 Min)
- Remove the prawn heads, leaving the shell intact. Devein the prawns and wash. Add 1 tsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp salt to the prawn and set aside for later use.
- Wash the Grouper fillet and cut into thick slices. Marinate with 1 1/2 tsp Thai fish sauce and pepper and set aside.
- Remove the skin of the squid and the innards (see video tutorial on how to clean squid). Wash it and cut into thick rings and set aside.
- Wash, peel and slice the 4-5 cloves garlic for the soup. If you don't have chopped garlic on hand, chop some garlic enough for 1 Tbsp of chopped garlic for frying the prawns.
- Cut off the top of the lemon grass about 8 cm leaving the broader ends. Bruise the broader ends with a chopper and cut into 3 cm lengths.
- Remove the skin of the galangal and wash. Cut into slices.
- Wash the chilli padi and bruise it lightly with the side of the knife
- Twist the lime leave to break the veins. This helps to release the juices during cooking.
- Rinse the tamarind rind.
- Wash the oyster mushroom and lightly squeeze out the excess water. Cut into chunky size.
- Cut the Thai Lime and squeeze out the juices and set aside.
Cooking Method for Tom Yam Talay (30 Min)
- Heat up 4 TBsp of oil over high heat. Add in 1 TBsp of chopped garlic and fry till aromatic but not burnt.
- Add in the prawn heads (and any other prawn heads and shells saved previously). Use the spatula to make a chopping action on the prawn heads. This helps to release the juices and essence of the prawns. Then continue to fry until fragrant.
- Add in 1 litre of boiling water, lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 mins. At this point, you should see an orangey layer of oil surfacing.
- Transfer the prawn stocks in a big pot over a strainer, and discard the prawn heads.
- Add another 2 litres of boiling water into the prawn stock, and bring back to a boil.
- Once boiling, add in the lemongrass, galangal, chilli padi, lime leaves, tamarind rind, Thai chilli paste and fish sauce. Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil for about 10 mins.
- Add in the oyster mushrooms and continue to boil for another 5 mins.
- Turn the heat to high. Add in the prawns, fish slices and squid and cook for about 30 secs, then turn off the heat.
- Lastly pour in the sugar and lime juice to taste.
- Dish out the seafood into individual bowls and then pour the soup over. Garnish with parsley and best serve piping hot!
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: Ensure all condiments are gluten-free versions.
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
Hope you enjoy this recipe, and please leave me a comment below if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback for me!