“I love Thai food for lunch – tom yum soup is the solution to all problems.”
-Leyla Hussein, interviewed by Rebecca Myers, in The Sunday Times
I read the Sunday Times interview with Leyla Hussein with interest for two reasons.
Firstly, my osteopath spends a month every year in Kenya, helping to support girls who have been subjected to FGM (female genital mutilation), and I have heard first-hand from her the horrific results of this barbaric practice.
Leyla Hussein (the inspiration for this Tom Yum soup post) is an effective campaigner against FGM everywhere, in particular in the UK; Hussein describes FGM as ‘a very British problem’, not something I’d expected. You can support the anti-FGM charity, Daughters of Eve, by going to the website.
However, this is a food blog – and the second reason that I read the article with care was Hussein’s throw away comment (the quote above) about the power of tom yum soup. Problems abound…solutions are scarce for all. Tom Yum soup had to be worth a go.
I wasn’t disappointed, and neither was the Chief Taster. “This is a really excellent soup.” he commented, sucking in the liquid in his spoon with delight, “You could serve this at a dinner party…you might have to tone the chilli down a little depending on the wine, but not much, it’s an essential part of the character of the dish.”
I couldn’t have agreed with him more. I can’t say the problems vanished, but this hot spicy soup warms the soul, and helps to restore a sense of perspective.
The coriander is the leading player in terms of flavour in this restorative concoction; and the chilli is essential from a visual point of view.
You can exchange the prawns for chicken if you are minded to experiment.
You can also add basil, lemon grass and/or kaffir lime leaves if you happen to have any of those to hand.
Tom Yum soup is not difficult, or time-consuming, to make. This is how.
Recipe for a prawn tom yum soup
- 200g/7 oz frozen cooked and peeled king prawns
- 600 ml/2½ cups vegetable stock made with two vegetable stock cubes
- 2 spring onions
- 2 small red chillis
- 8 button mushrooms – about 100g/4 oz
- juice and zest of a lime
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp soft brown sugar
- 28g/1 oz fresh coriander – you won’t need all this – a few stems will be sufficient.
- Defrost the prawns. There is a lot of contention about the best way to do this. If you are organised ideally you would defrost them overnight in the fridge, or in less time by leaving them outside to defrost naturally. If you are not organised my method is to put them in a sieve and then under running cold (nb, definitely not hot – that way leads to food poisoning) water. It is a method recommended also by the Food Standards Agency – follow this link for what they say. The snag about this method is that the prawns suck in the no-flavour water, and, at the same time, some of their flavour is rinsed out. Some people defrost their prawns in the microwave, but I think this gives them a strange rubbery consistency.
- Pour the vegetable stock into a saucepan, and bring it to the boil.
- Deseed and finely slice the chillies and add to the stock.
- Peel, if necessary, and slice the mushrooms, add them.
- Zest the lime, and keep to one side. Add the juice to the stock. Add the sugar and the fish sauce.
- Snip over the white part only of the spring onions, but retain the rest.
- Reduce the soup to a simmer and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the prawns and cook for another minute to heat through.
- Serve with the coriander torn over, and about 5cm/1 inch of the green part of the spring onions snipped over.