Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Favourite Recipe : "Tom Yum Koong"

There is something special about this recipe. I actually learn how to make Tom Yum Koong at Bangkok, and since then, I have been doing it at least twice per month!

Tom Yum Koong is one of the most famous traditional Thai dish. It contains many useful herbs which are regarded as traditional Thai medicines. 

On April 2008, Thailand organised the ASPAC (Asia Pacific Network of Science & Technology Centers) Conference. Since Bangkok is not so far away from Kuala Lumpur and I just have this passion of learning in a science education conferences, I made some initiatives to fork out my own expenses. As a result, I went there with a no-frill airline, opted for the cheapest ground transportation and brought home-cooked meal!

The most memorable experience for my first trip to Bangkok have to be; attending my first conference on my own and the tom yum koong making workshop. The organisers ensure that there were loads of science behind this workshop and it was truly a fun, enjoyable and enriching experience!

The chefs are none other than the big names in Thailand Science museums, in fact the presenter was one of the ASPAC committee himself. I have high respect for versatile bosses. 

The workshop started with a brief on Tom Yum Koong and the science behind the ingrediennts. We were also provided with a booklet as a guide cum souvenir and also a commemorative apron. My team comprised of Azni, Dr. Zaki (Pusat Sains & Kreativiti Terengganu), Abang Khir and Pansho. 

The chef gave us some very important tips (useful to me, at least). In Tom Yum Koong recipes, freshwater prawn is more popular that the ocean prawn because it contains more fat in its head, which give a rich flavour in Tom Yum Koong. Thai people also prefer to remove the intestine from the back of the prawn before cooking because it may not be aestatically pleasing plus it may interfere with the taste of the soup. My mum always asks us to remove the intestine of the prawn in any cooking. "Buang taik tu!", she reminded us. "Bawak penyakit..", she continued. See extra notes at the end of the entry for more information on deveining.

The chef also suggested us to use the coriander roots to be boiled together with the ingredients. Before this, I tend to throw it away!

Finally he reminded us not to add lime juice to the broth while cooking. If we do, the broth will have a bitter taste.

Although Tom Yum Koong is easy to make, don't underestimate the humble soup. You can actually turn it into a healthy meal offering for your family. There are also days where you are sick and do not have an appetite to eat. This is where the heavenly therapeutic soup come in. Imagine the warm, slightly sour and tangy soup and not to mention tasty liquid coming down your throat.

Give it a try!

What you need:

Prawns ( I usually use 20 large size prawns)

Squids (optional)

4 cups of water

3 cups of prawn broth (stock from boiling water with the head and shell)

4 stalks of lemon grass (lightly pounded)

6 kaffir lime leaves (torn)

5 coriander roots

1 cup oyster mushrooms (halved)

Fish sauce (to taste, usually I used about 5 tablespoons)

5 tablespoons of lime juice

Coriander leaves

Chillies (lightly pounded, usually I used about 6 chillies)

3 cm galangal (lightly pounded)

3 cloves of garlic (crushed)

5 small red onions (crushed)

2 tomatoes (each cut into 4 wedges)

A cup of coconut milk (optional, if you prefer richer, creamy taste)

What to do:

1. In a large pot, boil water and broth, with lemon grass, coriander roots, onions, garlic, galangal, chillies and the fish sauce.

2. After about 5 minutes, add kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms and tomatoes and leave to cook. This will take about a minute.

3. Add the prawns and wait for the broth to boil. If you are using coconut milk, add it at this point and wait to boil). This will take less than a minute. Turn off the heat. 

4. Add lemon juice and and sprinkle the broth with coriander leaves.

Note: Did you notice that I did not use any oil in this recipe? There is no need to and it is also healthier. You can also substitute prawns with chicken, squid or beef or mix it all together to have tomyam campur.

Estimated cooking time: 15 minutes

Yield: serves 7

Photo credit:

Nor Azhar Ishak Personal Photo Collection


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