Hot and Sour Soup (Tom Yam)

by Kristin on January 11, 2010

I’m not making resolutions this year and the closest I get to a New Year’s detox is to take a break from baking for a few weeks. This soup feels like it would fall into a detox kind of category, though (and truth be told, I could use a break from all the rich eating of the past few weeks). Its flavors are light, clean and refreshing, but it also has a warming, sinuses-clearing kick from the chilies. It’s what I crave if I have a head cold, and it works for a hangover too. You can serve this on its own if you’re feeling delicate — with the added bonus that it can be prepared in no time at all — or as a first course to another Thai dish, such as Pad Thai, or maybe Kelly’s Asian chicken salad and scallion pancakes. Or if you’re craving these kinds of fresh flavors but would like something a little more substantial to see you through a cold snap like we’ve been having in Ireland, then try this pumpkin and tomato laksa.

Hot and Sour Soup (Tom Yam)
adapted from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson

Serves 4

a handful of fresh cilantro, leaves separated from the stems
approx. 1 1/2 quarts (1 1/2 liters) chicken stock
1 stick of lemongrass, tender inner part only, roughly chopped (or 1 stick dried lemongrass, left whole)
3 x 1/8 inch (1/4 cm) pieces of fresh ginger
juice and zest of 1 lime
4 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 green chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
140 g (5 oz) button mushrooms, halved or quartered, according to size
1 lb 2 oz (500 g) peeled raw prawns, thawed if frozen, or 2 small chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
5 small scallions, chopped

Heat the stock in a saucepan with the cilantro stalks, lemongrass, ginger, lime zest and juice, fish sauce and chilies. Bring to the boil, add the mushrooms and simmer for a few minutes, then add the prawns or chicken and spring onions and cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes, until the prawns are tender or the chicken is cooked. Remove the cilantro stems and ginger (and dried lemongrass, if used). Sprinkle with some chopped cilantro leaves and serve.

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