Saturday, March 10, 2012


This is a version of Tom Yam Goong, a popular Thai soup, from the Bangkok and Central Plains region of Thailand.   Each region of Thailand has its own individual variation of this recipe.  This one  uses a black chili paste, which, in my opinion, is the most spicy of all Thai chili pastes (red, green, yellow).   Using one of my 20-year-old  cookbooks as a guide, I've adapted and enjoyed both recipes over the years.

1  pound of colossal (U12-15) shrimps, head and shell on
3 1/2 cups of water
3 stalks of lemongrass
1 Tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (canola or grape seed)
2 shallots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon black chili paste (recipe follows)
5 slices of fresh ginger (or galangal)
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded into strips
1/4 cup (2 fl oz) fish sauce (nam pla)
1 cup straw mushrooms,  sliced
1/4 cup (2 fl oz) fresh lime juice
1/2 cup bean sprouts (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Shell  and remove heads from shrimps.   Rinse shells and heads and place them in a large pot with the water.  Heat to boiling, then lower heat and bring broth to a very low simmer.  Place the shelled shrimps in the fridge until about 5-10 minutes before you're ready to add to the soup.
Trim the lemongrass of its outer sheath and hard ends.  Whack it in a few places with a mallet (or back of a knife), then cut into 2 or 3 pieces.

In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, shallots, and garlic and turn heat to medium.  Stir for a minute.   Add the lemongrass, black chili paste, ginger (or galangal), and lime leaves.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then add the shrimp broth.   Reduce heat to medium and cook at a moderate simmer  for 15-20 minutes.   Add the fish sauce and mushrooms and cook gently for about 2 minutes.  Remove shrimp from the fridge and  add to the soup.  Reheat to boiling, or until shrimp are cooked through.  Add lime juice (and bean sprouts, if using) to soup.  Pour soup into bowls, dividing shrimps evenly into each one.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.*  Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main course.
*Additional black chili paste, fish sauce, and lime juice could be served as a side in individual bowls.


This spicy chili paste will give any food a much richer taste.  I've also seen it used as a dip for fresh vegetables.  Used that way, it is one for the  very brave individuals with a strong, spicy pallet.  
I like to dry/roast the fresh jalapenos in the oven, which takes about 2 hours or so.  If there are time constraints to prepare them that way,  then store-bought, dried green jalapeno or serrano peppers could be substituted.  Either way, the paste, covered in a tight jar, will last in the fridge indefinitely.

Olive oil (to lightly drizzle on jalapeno peppers)
3 oz of fresh green jalapeno or serrano peppers  (or 2 oz dried, store-bought)
1/2 cup neutral oil (for frying the mixture)
1/2 cup shallots, chopped
3/4 cup garlic, chopped
4 oz dried shrimps/prawns
1 Tablespoon shrimp  paste, or a combination half mixture of anchovy paste and oyster sauce
1 1/2 oz fish sauce
1/8 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Place the fresh peppers on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Turn over the peppers to ensure they are all covered in the oil.  Place sheet in oven.  Every 30 minutes, turn over and rotate the peppers, until they turn a dark brown.  This will take about 2-2 1/2 hours.   Check to ensure that they do not burn. Turn off oven and let peppers rest for about 20 minutes.  Remove sheet.

Heat a medium skillet with oil.  Add the peppers, shallots and garlic and fry until dark brown.

Remove fried ingredients.  Add hot water to the pan.  Place the fried ingredients into a blender with the dried shrimps, the shrimp paste (or anchovy and oyster sauce), fish sauce and sugar.

Start to process until a smooth mixture forms.  The mixture will be very tight, so add some hot water, at 1 oz. increments, to the paste, as you continue to process.  The blender will, most likely, need to be turned off several times so the mixture could be stirred and the water added.

Pour the mixture into a medium skillet and fry on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove, cool and place in a jar with a tight lid.  Yield is about 1/2 cups.

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