Tom Yum Recipes

Tom yum soup from the late 19th-century Siam to present days. Including a step-by-step recreation of tom yum soup with snakehead fish (dtohm yam bplaa chaawn, ตัมยำปลาช่อน) as recorded by Maawm Sohm Jeen (Raa Chaa Noopraphan) (หม่อมซ่มจีน, ราชานุประพันธุ์) in her book “Tam Raa Gap Khao” (ตำรากับเข้า), published in 1890 (2433 BE, 109RE).

Today I will show you a unique, virtually instant dish to prepare. It is also a remarkable example of how Thai traditional cuisine is using local and natural ingredient in simple yet sophisticated way.

Sa Noh - aka Sesbania Javanica Miq. or Sesbania Pea is a tropical shrub which grows widely in the swampy areas of Thailand. The beautiful clusters of flaming yellow flowers decorate the waterways and canals during the hot humid summers and wet rainy seasons.

It will not be an overstatement to say that banana trees accompany Thai people from their birth to the afterlife. Starting with the decorative objects made out of banana leaves newborns receive to invite protective spirits, and continues their entire life with the endless uses for banana leaves, trunks and fruits; finally ending with the female spirit ghost, maae praai taanee (แม่พรายตานี), who resides in banana trees and Thai beliefs.

Tom Yam is a type of soup with distinct sharp hot and sour flavors, scented with pleasant citrusy aroma.

Tom Yam is known to seduce many westerners to fall in love with Thailand, its people and food. Many trips memories to Thailand were written in diaries, others are etched on film but all are stained by the Tom Yam charm.

I still remember with vivid colors my first bowl of Tom Yam, in the night market of the old neighborhood on a hot night in a ragged, unfashionable part of Bangkok. Where the smell of cooking and the glare of florescent lights decorated the alley where JeMoi used to own a restaurant, a very simple and very good one, decorated with cheap bamboo chairs and peeling orange walls. I would enjoy watching the streets of the early night turning into mornings, eating, drinking and sweating. It was hard to say if I was sweating from the hot and humid weather, the cheap whiskey or JeMoi’s spicy food. I still smile when I think of her, standing by my table with a winning smile, as if she knew how much I enjoy the food.