Thai Tom Yam Soup with Black Pomfret Fish
Tom yam soup, which is sometimes spelt tom yum soup, is a Thai delicacy. This spicy, slightly sour soup combines lime leaves, shallots, lemon grass, fish sauce, chilies and more and you can decorate the finished soup with the lime leaves or with some fresh cilantro, which is always great with aromatic southeast Asian cuisine.
This recipe calls for black pomfret, which is also known as false butterfish, black pompano, or sweep. This fish is native to the shallow Indo-Pacific waters, from Australia and southern Japan to East Africa. Most black pomfret comes from Indonesia. Thailand and Malaysia are also important suppliers, which is why the fish features in many Thai and Malaysian fish recipes. Pomfret is rich and sweet. It is also quite fatty, hence its nickname “false butterfish.” You can get this fish fresh, salted, or dried. Use any firm-fleshed white fish if you cannot find pomfret.
Use a Chinese brinjal instead of the pair of small eggplants, if you can get it. These vegetables are similar but brinjal is more authentic for this tom yam soup recipe. You might think the ingredients list for this recipe looks long but actually most of the ingredients are things you might already have in the kitchen and the soup recipe itself is really easy. It is just a question of simmering everything together in the pan and tasting as you go, to ensure the end flavors are perfect.
- 1 lb black pomfret, in 6 pieces
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 2 small eggplants, in wedges
- 5 slices galangal or 10 slices ginger
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 red chili pepper, de-seeded and sliced
- 10 whole bird's eye chili peppers, de-stemmed
- 3 tablespoons tom yum paste
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ½ sliced onion
- 3 stalks cilantro (not the leaves)
- 2 whole, peeled shallots
- 1 ½ teaspoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon concentrated chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 pints chicken stock or water
- Trim the end off of each lemongrass stalk and smash the side using a knife. Heat the oil in a wok and sauté the tom yam paste, shallots, galangal, lemongrass, and onion for 3 minutes or until aromatic.
- Add the chicken stock or water and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Stir in the cilantro stalks, chilies, tomato, eggplant and lime leaves and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the fish sauce and lime juice. Add the fish slices and bring the soup to a boil. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt or some sugar if necessary, and gently simmer the soup until the fish is cooked through.
- Serve decorated with the cilantro leaves or with the lime leaves, ensuring everyone gets a piece of fish in their bowl.
Some tom yam soup recipes contain shrimp or another kind of seafood but this one is made with pomfret, a delicious white-fleshed fish. Feel free to use tilapia, cod, monkfish, or anything else instead. The fish is poached in the tom yam soup so it takes on the delicate, aromatic flavors. This soup has a hot and sour taste and the authentic Thai ingredients mean it is guaranteed to impress any dinner guests you might have. As the picture shows you, this is a colorful soup with plenty of character and appeal.
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