Saturday, August 4, 2012

Salmon Tom Yum Soup

Holidays, good food and friends are, in my humble opinion, the key to happiness. The second I am on a beach with a belly full of seafood, I instantly relax and all my troubles drift of to sea.

Last week I got back from another long trip to Bangladesh and needed urgently to recharge the batteries. For me, when I feel this way, I autopilot down to Railay – the most wonderful of Thailand’s beaches in Krabi province. It’s my happy place. I lived there, I learned to rock climb there, I got married there and have many good friends there. At the risk of turning this blog into a Railay tourism promotion piece, I strongly advise anyone holidaying on the Andaman coast to visit.

And it just got a little bit better because my favourite restaurant which closed last year has returned with a vengeance. A lady called Sao serves up some of the best Thai food I have eaten in Thailand from her shack marked simply, ‘Local Thai Food’. There is no fancy d├ęcor – just wooden tables and plastic crockery. The key to her success is simple. It’s all about quality ingredients (the biggest prawns, freshest vegetables, wholesome brown rice), big portions and low prices. Even in low season, there is often a queue.

Behind the scenes in the kitchen

Her tom yum soup is the most flavoursome I’ve tasted so I just had to get the recipe. This is a classic Thai dish, a hot and sour soup packed with tasty herbs. Sao makes hers with prawns, which is the classic way the dish is served.

Tom Yum cooking in the wok

I was very privileged to be allowed behind the scenes and learn some of Sao’s secrets – she cooked, I watched, learned and took notes.

Learning from the master!

When I got back to Bangkok I recreated the dish using salmon which was so tasty. This is easily my favourite soup ever.

Time: 30 mins
Rating: super easy
Serves: 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

2 salmon fillets
2 lemongrass sticks
2 inch knob of galangal or ginger
8 kaffir lime leaves
Handful of mushrooms (I used black fungus - any variety will do)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
8 spring onions
2 tomatoes
Bunch coriander
2 tbsp chilli paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp lime juice (about 4 limes)
8 tbsp coconut milk
2 small red chillies (optional)
800ml water


  1. Remove the skin from the salmon and cut into large chunks.
  2. Then prepare the herbs. Slice the lemongrass diagonally about half a centimetre in thickness. Slice the galangal or ginger into thick slices – no need to peel it. Thickly slice the garlic.
  3. Cut the onion into chunks about 1cm in size. Trim the spring onions and cut into pieces about 3-4cm in length. Cut the mushrooms into quarters. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and coarsely chop the coriander.
  4. Bring the water to the boil. Add the chilli paste, sugar and salt and stir well. Add the lemongrass, galangal/ginger, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, onion and garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the lime juice and stir well. Then add the spring onion, tomato, coriander and coconut milk and stir well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you would like the dish spicy, bruise the small red chillies and add these to the pot now. Taste the liquid – the flavours are yours to adjust. Add more salt, sugar, lime or chilli according to your tastes. Then add the salmon and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring gently until the salmon is cooked.
  6. Remove from the heat and serve in large bowls either on its own or with steamed rice. The lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves are only for flavour – don’t eat these as they’re very tough!


  1. How lucky are you to go behind the scenes. Recipe sound really good, I can imagine the flavorful bowl of goodness. Thank you for sharing your fun experience!

  2. Oh I'm so going to make this as we love Salmon in my family :)Love the delicious Thai flavors in your soup!HMMM...

  3. Always nice to learn for the chef . This tom yum soup looks delicious.