Special Issues » Flavor Issue

5 Soups to Keep You Warm This Winter

by and


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  • Liz Warburton

Saeb Thai's Tom Yum

Find it at 226 W. Bitters Road, Suite 124, (210) 545-3354, saebthainoodlesa.com

There are tons of toms around town, but one of the best is at Saeb Thai and Noodle in Embassy Oaks, where a small bowl will set you back $3.95 with tofu, chicken or shrimp. This is a simple soup relying on aromatics such as lemongrass, kaffir or makrut lime leaves, and galangal (a cousin of ginger, which can be substituted) for most of its exotic, citrusy appeal. Chili paste, halved button mushrooms, tomato and cilantro round out the flavor profile. The heat level is probably just high enough at Saeb, though masochists may want to add just a tiny spoonful of the house's sour/hot fish sauce to Thai up the taste. You will be left with the inedible flotsam and jetsam that is the lime leaf and lemongrass (don't fear eating the sliced galangal/ginger — though that's optional) in the bottom of the bowl. Resist the urge to chew on these. The following is a recipe adapted from Tyler (Thai-ler?) Florence.


  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced on a bias in 2-inch pieces
  • 4 kaffir (makrut) lime leaves or more to taste
  • 1-inch piece fresh galangal or ginger, sliced (no need to peel)
  • 2 serrano chiles, sliced (and seeded if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, such as nam pla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed, or fresh button mushrooms, halved
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled with tails left on
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped (thick stems discarded)


Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal or ginger and chiles. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes to let the spices infuse the broth.

Uncover and add the fish sauce, sugar and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the shrimp and cook for about 8 minutes until they turn pink. Remove from heat and add the lime juice, green onions and cilantro. Taste for salt and spices, adjusting as needed to achieve a balance of spicy, salty and sour.


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