Spicy Lemon Grass Soup (Tom Yum Gai)

Serves 2-4


2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

1 tablespoon Thai red chile paste (nam prik pao; may substitute other chile paste such as sambal oelek)

1 stalk lemon grass, cut into 2-inch sections and crushed

6 thin slices (about 3/4 ounce) galangal-fresh not dried (may substitute fresh ginger root)

2 makrut lime leaves, torn into small pieces (may substitute a few wide strips of lime peel)

3 cups water or chicken broth

8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices (hint: freeze for 15 minutes before slicing)

1 1/2 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

1 scallion, white and light-green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal

— Leaves from 1 stem cilantro


Whisk together the fish sauce, lime or lemon juice and chile paste in a small bowl.

Combine the lemon grass, galangal, makrut lime leaves and water or broth in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to discard all the solids.

Add the chicken to the pan, making sure the pieces don’t stick together (they will begin to cook as soon as they hit the liquid). Once the liquid returns to a boil, add the mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken has cooked through and the tomatoes have softened, reducing the heat as needed to keep the soup from boiling over.

Remove from the heat; stir in the fish sauce mixture, scallion and cilantro. Serve hot.