Tom Yum Talay


This is probably the best known of all Thai dishes in the western world. I suspect that it's reputation stems from it's ability to make any unsuspecting newcomer's hair stand on end. The version I present here is no different. If you prefer your hair to remain neatly groomed, reduce the quantity of Chilies, especially the small ones (Prik Kee Noo).

You can put just about any seafood you like into Tom Yum Talay. Common items include Prawns, Squid, Fish, Shell-Fish (especially mussels) and crab.

I usually use just the prawns and the squid. I always buy the biggest prawns I can find, so long as the price is not outrageous. Luckily in Thailand prawns tend to be larger and cheaper, than those I've seen in most western supermarkets. If I manage to find very large prawns I buy enough to make sure each diner gets two each. If the prawns are smaller I make sure each person gets more.

To prepare the prawns, use a very sharp knife to make a deep slit along the length of the middle of back, running from just below the head to the tail. Remove the digestive tract, which looks like a large dark vein and wash clean under a running tap.

If you are using fish, remove all un-edible pieces, especially the bones. Shell-fish should be clean and free of grit. When included soft shell crabs are normally used. If these are not available, then thoroughly crack the shells of the legs and pincers before cooking. Only the white meat parts of the crab are used.

I only use the squid which is white, with maybe some purple flecks on the tentacles. I do not like the yellow  or brown colored squid, which some people have told me may be cuttle-fish. I chop the body of the squid into white squares about one inch by one inch and score them diagonally, in both directions, with a small sharp knife, creating a kind of diamond pattern on their surface.

Ingredients to serve 4 people

1 chicken carcass, half a kilo of squid, half a kilo of prawns, 100gm straw mushrooms, 2 medium sized tomatoes, 5 shallots, 1 spring onion, 3 coriander roots, 2 stalks of lemon grass, 10 bai makrud, 1 root of kha (about 150gm), 40gm prik kee noo, 20ml nam prik pau, 50ml nam pla, 75ml fresh lime juice, 2 large red chilis, 25ml Carnation evaporated milk, 4ml sugar, a handful of coriander leaves (optional).

The first task is to start the stock. Make it by boiling a chicken carcass with a large pinch of salt, in a liter of water for 20 minutes.

While this stock is boiling, clean, peel and chop the other ingredients. Discard the outer layer of the shallots and the sheaf of the lemon grass.

The Straw mushrooms are normally halved and the tomatoes and shallots cut into quarters. The single spring onion is chopped up into very small pieces.

Remove the stalks and seeds from the red chilis and cut them lengthways into strips.

A photo of of a delicious looking Tom Yum Talay, you can see prawns, squid, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, chilies and of course the soup itself.

Discard the chicken carcass and any bits of bone or gristle which may have become detached.

Put the kha, lemongrass, half of the bai makrud, shallots and coriander root into the stock and boil for two minutes.

Add the prawns, squid, mushrooms, tomatoes and red chilis and boil vigorously for a further five minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the  nam prik pau, nam pla, prik kee noo, lime juice, sugar, evaporated milk, spring onion and remainder of the bai makrud.

The soup can be served in an ordinary soup bowl, but it is more fun to use a mor, which has a paraffin wax candle to keep the soup warm, while the diners help themselves.

Finally you can optionally garnish it with coriander leaves.


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2 Pints = 1 liter

1 Floz = 30 ml

2 Lbs = 1 kg

1 Oz = 30 gm

1 Inch = 2.5 cm

These are very approximate, don't use them for your children's home work, but they are good enough for our purposes



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