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Spicy Prawn Soup (Tom Yam Gung)

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Servings: 4
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef


  • 1-4 bird’s eye chilis, to taste (optional)
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, each cut into 3 large pieces
  • 2 tsp. galangal, finely chopped
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp. thai chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup green onions (white and green parts), cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup straw or white mushrooms, halved
  • 3 large red chili peppers, cut in 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/2 large red pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped (optional)
  • 20 shrimp, peeled and de-veined, but with tails intact
  • soy sauce, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)


  • Using pestle (from mortar and pestle) or a meat tenderizer, smash the bird’s eye chilis and lemongrass to open them up. In a wok or soup pot over medium-high heat, dry-sauté chilis, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, stirring constantly until aromatic, about a minute. Add stock, chili paste and fish sauce and bring to a boil.
  • Add green onions, mushrooms, chili peppers, red peppers and onion (if using) and shrimp. Continue to boil soup until shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Taste soup and add soy sauce to increase saltiness, if needed.
  • Remove from heat and add lime juice, stirring to combine. Serve immediately, topped with cilantro leaves.


Although this soup should be spicy, adjust the number of bird’s eye chilis so that it is to your preferred degree of heat. Bird’s eye chilis are really spicy and must be handled with care (they even make my fingers tingle when cutting them up). Even one birds eye chili will result in a healthy dose of spice. The soup also includes red chili peppers, which are the larger, less spicy type that add flavor and color, so don’t skip them. (I also like to add red peppers and onions when I have them on-hand, but neither are necessary.) Oh, and one last thing – I used Thai-style broth which is not salted, so I added soy sauce for salt. Even if you use low sodium boxed broth, you may find that your soup doesn’t need any extra salt at all – taste it to be sure.