thai tom yum soup
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Yummy. Yum. Yum-yum. Everyone seems to agree that this is an onomatopoeia, a word meant to imitate the sound of lips smacked in delight at a delicious taste. It was first recorded in 19th century, used commonly as baby-talk and them migrating to the (not so) grown up speech. Nami nami in Finnish, miam miam in French, ham ham in Turkish and, astonishingly, lecker lecker in German. The annoying modern nom-nom has its origin in the sounds made by the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster when eating cookies.
I’m not a huge fan of the expression. Making sounds while you eat is rude, I was brought up to believe, and baby-speak in any capacity (talking to babies included) I find abhorrent.
Yum – onomato-pay yourself if you want to, but I firmly believe the word comes from tom yum, the tastiest soup in the world. Tom yum goong is the most common type, with yum plus shrimp; tom yum nam khon is the creamy version and I have cooked tom yum hoi (which I called it thus myself, painfully aware that the Thai word for clam is also a very rude slang expression) or better known tom yum po taek: seafood tom yum.
I don’t think this is in any way orthodox. I’ve concocted the recipe from an extensive search through various, more and less authentic-looking sources. I’m not Thai and haven’t even been to Thailand, blah, blah, blah. But so what? I cook chicken soup and I’m not Jewish, and we all cook tremendous amounts of pasta all the time, very badly. Food is egalitarian and only food fascists think otherwise.
thai tom yum soupServings: 2Time: 30 minutes
- 400g (1 pound) fresh clams
- 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped and crushed with a heel of a knife
- 3 thick slices of galangal
- 2 birds eye chillies, crushed
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, bruised
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- ½ tsp hot chilli oil
- 5-6 fresh cup or oyster mushrooms, sliced thinly
- a small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 2 nests of rice vermicelli noodles, soaked according to packet instructions
1. Rinse the clams with cold water; discard the ones that won’t close when thrown into the sink. Bring about a cup of water to the boil in a saucepan with a lid. Throw the clams into the boiling water, cover with the lid and steam for 2 minutes, shaking the pan with the lid on once or twice. Lift the lid and check if all the shells have opened.
2. When they are cool enough to handle, scoop the clams from the shells and set aside. Discard the shells that haven’t opened.
3. Reserve the cooking broth in the pan. Add the lemongrass, galangal, chillies and kaffir lime leaves to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes.
In a small skillet melt the coconut oil with a few drops of hot oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook stirring until coloured and all the released moisture has absorbed back.
4. If you’re not bothered about the aromatics floating about in the soup, add the mushrooms straight into the broth; if you’d rather get rid of the lemongrass and all, strain it into a clean pan before adding the mushrooms to it.
5. Add the clams, ginger and fish sauce and check for seasoning; add more hot oil if necessary – it should be definitely on the hot side. Keep on the heat until piping hot but not boiling. Add the lime juice just before serving.
6. Place a small heap of noodles in a serving bowl and ladle in the soup; serve immediately.