Traditional shrimp tom yum uses unshelled shrimps, heads attached, which when simmered make a richly flavored broth. You may use frozen shelled shrimps AND shrimp broth without losing flavor. For more in prepping shrimps and making shrimp broth, see the post below.
What about the kaffir lime leaves in the ingredients list? Is that available in the grocery? In some groceries, yes. They are sold fresh or dried. We get our supply from our own kaffir lime tree.
Juice from regular limes is traditional for tom yum, but we just substitute kaffir limes for any dish that calls for regular limes.
Many Western versions of tom yum substitute ginger for galangal, but in Asian cooking, they are not interchangeable. Galangal and ginger are often cooked together but, when a recipe calls for galangal only, ginger is not a viable alternative.
So, will it be such a disaster if ginger were used in cooking shrimp tom yum instead of galangal? Well, disaster may be too strong a word. If you do substitute, the flavor of the dish will be different. Not necessarily bad; just different.
Full recipe below
Shrimp tom yum
- 6 cups shrimp broth
- 3 slices galangal - dried is fine
- 2 whole stalks lemongrass - tied into a bundle
- 2 shallots - peeled and halved
- 2 pairs kaffir lime leaves - center ribs removed and discarded
- 2 bird's eye chilies - slit
- 2 tomatoes - cut into wedges
- 24 medium shrimps - shelled and deveined
- fish sauce
- lime juice
- torn cilantro - to garnish
- Pour the broth into a pot and bring to the boil.
- Drop the galangal slices, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chilies and tomatoes into the broth. Lower the heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the shrimps to the broth.
- If the broth is unseasoned or underseasoned, add fish sauce.
- Cover the pot once more and simmer for five minutes, or just long enough to cook the shrimps but without overcooking them.
- Taste the broth. Add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Drizzle in the lime juice, a tablespoonful at a time, tasting and adding as you go along until a good balance of salty and sour is achieved.
- Ladle your hot and sour shrimp tom yum into bowls, sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.