Jeweled Ingredients

Those familiar with Thai cuisine know cooking is all about building layer upon layer of taste.  This ensures each ingredient is distinct, identifiable and doesn’t get lost.  Still, they make up a chorus of flavors all equally assertive, yet complimenting each other beautifully.  That combination is no more exquisitely balanced than in today’s creation, Guay Tiew Tom Yum Goong, Thai Hot and Sour Noodle Soup with Shrimp.

The offering is a loose variation on a more familiar Thai staple, Tom Yum soup, and the recipe ran in the Cook’s Illustrated March & April 2019 issue.  This version is a little lighter than is classic Tom Yum, as it foregoes the latter’s coconut milk-based broth.  While the absence is noted, the property gives the constituent ingredients an even more pronounced role.  This enhanced definition gives taste buds plenty to do.

Running through the cooking list boldly announces each item.  Lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves bring sweetly tangy citrus to the party.  Galangal, ginger’s floral Thai cousin, also strikes familiar sugared notes, though with a sinus-clearing and stomach-soothing energy.  As for the aromatic bulbs, scallions and garlic keep the beat moving with their own enticing melody.

What else?  There’s tomatoes’ savory tanginess, cilantro’s countering coolness, fish sauce’s slightly salty mysteriousness…. The list is formidable, as you’ll read below.  Flavor enough for all these ingredients, and plenty to spare too.  Even the more subtle ingredients, like chicken stock, oyster mushrooms, rice noodles and shrimp, find their gentleness and umami sparkle amidst their neighbors’ flatteringly witty banter.

Most ingenious of all, the soup holds them all in perfect balance.  Quite an impressive feat when such vibrant intensity is afoot.  With ingredients less artfully combined, any one of them could, and would, run away with things.  Instead, the jewels glisten and mesmerize, yet they pulsate beautifully within the bowl.  It’s a brilliant balance Thai cooks have spent millennia perfecting.


Guay Tiew Tom Yum Goong

(Thai Hot and Sour Noodle Soup with Shrimp)

  • 4 ounces fairly thin rice noodles
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed to bottom six inches and tough outer layer removed
  • 4 scallions, trimmed, white parts left whole and green parts cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, torn if large (*1)
  • 2 Thai chilies, stemmed, with one left intact and the other sliced thinly
  • 1 2-ich piece galangal, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch-thick rounds (*2)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (*3)
  • 8 ounces oyster mushrooms, trimmed and torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, torn of large, for garnish

In a large pot, bring four quarts of water to a boil.  Cut the flame and add the rice noodles.  Let sit, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender, about ten minutes.  Drain and rinse well with cold water.  Distribute evenly among four soup bowls.

Place the lemongrass, scallion whites, lime leaves, galangal and the whole Thai chile on a cutting board.  Smash with a meat pounder until the mixture is moist and fragrant.  Transfer to a stockpot.

Place the stockpot over a high flame and add the chicken broth and sugar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the solids.

Add the mushrooms, fish sauce, scallion greens, and sliced chile.  Simmer for three to four minutes.  Stir in the shrimp, and cut the heat.  Cover and let sit for four minutes, until shrimp are opaque.  Add the tomatoes and lime juice.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and Thai basil leaves.


1 – If you can’t obtain kaffirs, replace with two tablespoons of fresh lime juice.

2 – Assuming galangal is difficult to locate, you always can use a similar quantity of ginger.  Not quite the same, though the difference is subtle.

3 – Use palm sugar, if you have it.  More authentic and savory that way.  If not, brown sugar is a good substitute.



15 thoughts on “Jeweled Ingredients

    1. Greatly appreciated, Crystal!

      Most gratifying, too, you share my enthusiasm for Thai cuisine. It really was my first love, back when I first realized the world is full of great things to eat.

      Sure, numerous are the worthies, yet Siamese cooking is first among equals. Hey, this isn’t a contest!

      Really? I beg to differ, as we definitely have a winner. Just think of all those gorgeous ingredients, and their exquisite flavors. Galangal, kafir lime leaves…and, of course, coconut! Plus, how can a cuisine which favors shallots over onions be anything other than tops?


  1. This looks amazing and makes me hungry for Thai cuisine. Yes, I use Ginger a lot in my cooking and relish the taste and digestive-soothing qualities. The vegetables is this dish are also healthy and colorful. I wasn’t hungry before I visited your site. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Greatly appreciated, Tamara!

      Ginger has been an ally for as long as I can remember, as I was quite vulnerable to car-sickness when I was a child. Nothing remedied the condition quicker than did ginger. Well, that, and peppermint too.

      Anyway, motion sickness no longer is a concern, fortunately, but I’ve learned ginger’s true excellence may found among the stovetops, counters, and mixing bowls. Maybe that’s why Thai cuisine is a favorite.

      All those gorgeous colors too! Proudly announcing the tastes they exult.

      You’re hungry? Remember, even now I have ideas lined up through spring 2025. Which means, in many cases, it’ll be years before I can share these dishes with you. Just imagine how hungry that’d make you! The knowing, and the waiting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the anticipation! BTW, I just purchased an 11 lb bag of Ginger Candy. It has 30% Ginger in each piece. Low calorie, too. I think it’s called: Gin Gins.

        I just bought a Phillips Air Fryer. I haven’t tried it out, yet. But soon I will give it a go.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Eleven pounds? Well, that’s promising news, actually, as it means you intend to live to at least 107. By then, it’ll be time for a fresh bag.

        By the way, have you ever tried the Altoid’s ginger variety? Considering how “curiously strong” their mints are, I imagine the ginger is equally potent. Oh, where were they when I was a carsick six-year-old?

        The air fryer was a pretty cool purchase. While I don’t own one yet, various friends (including, now, you) have one in their kitchens. I like the principle, and I’m eager to read what you think.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, 11 lbs. Ha haha. Uh huh, 107 years of age and I’ll be on Amazon ordering another bag. 😂

        No, I have not tried the Altoid’s Ginger flavored drops, yet. But, when I see them, I will probably get them.

        I will keep you posted on the Air Fryer. I’m still in the throes of learning how to use it without air frying my house, or the machine, to ashes.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Witty, Tamara. Oh-so-witty!

        Yes, I too worry that someday heat will exact a terrible price for us constantly stealing its glory for our own selfish purposes.

        Still, our doom is less immediate when we work oil out of the formula. Without oil, heat has a much more difficult time causing mischief.

        Oh, back to the original topic, it used to be, Altoids were in the supermarket checkout lanes, but come to think of it, I haven’t seen them in a while. Gosh, I hope they still are a “thing.” To the internet for an answer!

        Three minutes later…

        The answer is “Yes!”

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I bet you love going to the farmer’s market. For me, food markets are such a joy. Sometimes I end up buying veg I have no idea how to cook, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, Angela, I love them so! It’s cool to consider most everything on display was grown within a thirty-minute drive. Nearly always by the person to whom you’re speaking, too! Invigorating, isn’t it, to be part of a productive, thriving enterprise?

        Part of the excitement, too, arises from finding something unfamiliar. Without much of an idea of what to expect, and few of the biases that often hinder derring-do, you’re about to embark on an adventure. Amazing discoveries ahead – how fun!

        Plus, that’s what the internet is for, identifying what this thing is, and picking up ideas on how to enjoy it. Pity previous generations, who left so much by the wayside, because they had no idea what something was. Without counting a chef among their acquaintances, they had no way of discovering the truth, either.

        Now everyone has a chef and a produce guy in that little screen on their desktops.

        Liked by 1 person

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