Pork ribs are simmered with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce to make a rich citrusy broth. Lime juice is added towards the end for sourness. Chili slices, kaffir lime wedges and Thai basil are placed in individual bowls before the pork and broth are ladled in.
Why aren’t the chili slices added during cooking if this is a hot soup? If you do that, the broth will be way too hot to enjoy. By adding the chilies at serving time, the heat bleeds into the broth for only a short time.
The level of heat can also be controlled easily. For people who like very hot food, simply drop in more chili slices into their bowls. For those who prefer subtle heat, less slices of chili in their bowls should do it.
As with many Asian soups, serving tom saap with rice is one of the best ways to enjoy it. I highly recommend jasmine rice (it’s preferred in Thailand) cooked with pandan leaves. The aroma and flavor will blend beautifully with this soup.
Just tie a couple of pandan leaves into a knot, drop into the rice cooker with the jasmine rice and water, and cook as usual. When done, discard the pandan leaves and scoop rice into bowls.
To enjoy the soup with the pandan rice, ladle plenty of broth into your bowl of rice. Combine a small portion of rice, a piece of meat and a few Thai basil leaves for every mouthful.
Full recipe below
Thai hot and sour soup (tom saap)
- 1 kilogram pork ribs - cut up
- 4 stalks lemongrass - lightly pounded
- 6 slices galangal
- 4 cloves garlic - peeled and chopped
- 2 shallots - peeled and chopped
- 3 pairs kaffir lime leaves
- fish sauce - to taste
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- 4 bird's eye chilies - thinly sliced
- 2 cups Thai basil leaves
- 2 kaffir limes - cut into wedges
- Place the pork ribs in a pot, pour in water, and boil hard for ten minutes.
- Drain the ribs and rinse under the tap to remove impurities.
- Drop the ribs into a clean pot, cover with water, and add the lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and two tablespoons fish sauce.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the meat is tender, about an hour and a half to two hours.
- Taste the broth occasionally and add more fish sauce, as needed.
- Off the heat, stir in a quarter cup of lime juice. Taste the broth. If you want it more sour, add the rest of the lime juice little by little until you get the balance you prefer.
- Drop in chili slices, Thai basil leaves and kaffir lime wedges into four bowls.
- Divide the pork ribs among the bowls.
- Ladle in broth and serve immediately.