Tom Yum Pla Chon, Sour and spicy snakehead fish soup.

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Tom Yum Pla Chon, Sour and spicy snakehead fish soup.

Long before the Tom Yum Koong became know as one of the most recognized Thai dish in the world, our fore- fathers had created this soup by using the main ingredient that is easily available. Shrimp was not abundant but fresh water fish was. Fish such as the snakehead fish were in the Klongs (canal) and the paddy fields. Hence the birth of the Tom Yum soup made of fresh water fish. Shrimp was later substituted to elevate value of the dish because shrimp was more expensive and regarded as classier. This is another example of the boiling techniques in Thai cuisine, which does not use fat to cook the herbs to give it body and aroma. Tom means to boil and Yum means salad, which denotes the spicy, sour and salty flavors of the Thai salads. There are many versions to this recipe but the standard for Tom Yum has to have Three major herbs in it. Galangal, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Seasonings to adjust flavors are fish sauce and lime juice and fresh chili peppers (Prik Kee Nu) for heat. Other aromatics can be added to the soup but all Tom Yum soups have to have these ingredients that I mentioned. Here goes the recipe for Tom Yum Pla Chon:
Tom Yum Pla Chon, (Spicy and sour snakehead fish soup)
Whole snakehead fish cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces 1 each
Lemongrass stalks, smashed and cut into 2-3 inch lengths 2 stalks
Fresh galangal (Kah), sliced 4 slices
Kaffir lime leaves, torn 6 leaves
Whole shallots roasted 5 heads
Whole garlic roasted 6 cloves
Dry chili peppers,
roasted (prik kee nu hang kuoa) 5 each
Fish sauce 3 Tbsp.
Lime juice 3 Tbsp.
Water or stock 6 cups.
Fresh coriander, coarsely chopped 1/4 cup
Green onions chopped 1/4 cup
Saw tooth coriander (pak chee farang),
chopped 1/4 cup


1. In a pot, bring the stock or water to boil. Once boiling add sliced fresh galangal, lemongrass stalks, Kaffir lime leaves, roasted peeled shallots and roasted peeled garlic to the liquid. Bring the liquid back to boil.

2. Add fish pieces one at a time to the boiling liquid. The water should be boiling at all times when you add each pieces of fish. This will prevent the protein in the fish to dissolve in the liquid making the soup smells fishy. Once all the fish is boiling in the pot, allow the fish to cook (two minutes).

3. Adjust seasonings with fish sauce and limejuice. Taste the soup for the correct seasoning and turn off the heat.

4. Before serving add the chopped coriander, green onions and saw tooth coriander to the soup. If you like your Tom Yum quite spicy add lots of roasted dry chili peppers to the soup, crushing them a little. But if you do not like too much heat in the soup just add a little to the soup whole.


- Other kinds of fish can be used. Usually any white flesh fish is good.

- Roasted shallot and garlic were used in this recipe to mask the smell of the fresh water fish that live in the mud at the bottom of the canals

- In making Tom Yum, other meats can be used such as chicken or braised pork leg.