Love me some Tom Yum

I’m sick 😦 .

It started with Liz about three days ago. She said she felt a little under the weather and wasn’t as insanely happypeppyfabulous as she normally is. She kept to her bed a bit more than usual. Then, last evening, I started to develop a slight wheeze. I sounded like an old man trying to fight off consumption. I think Ive got the black lung, Pop. Then, early this morning, Anna’s boyfriend emerged from her bedroom and declared “Anna’s sick.” He wandered into the kitchen and stared blankly at a canister of Quaker rolled oats. “What do I put in oatmeal?” he asked. A non-instant newbie, I instructed him: Milk. Cinnamon. Raisins. Almonds. Almond butter. A pinch of salt.

As I prepared my own breakfast, I felt it. The body aches were sprouting from the center of my upper back and unraveling into my shoulders and limbs. I felt chilled and searing hot at the same time. And I couldn’t taste my belgian waffle. Pissed.

So, all I have done today is lay in my bed and study and waste time on the internet. I left the house once to go to Reproductive Nutrition and pick up some fish sauce from the local Asian market. It is the one ingredient that has evaded me for years. Damn that fish sauce. Of course it only comes in monstrously large bottles, because it is such a cooking staple for a significant portion of the world. I also picked up some lemongrass and thai chilis. I’ve got Tom Yum on my mind.

Thai food is not something I ever crave, unlike “New American” cuisine, Tex Mex, hippy food, and the occasional sushi and Chinese food. However, every time I do encounter Thai food, I love it. It is incredibly nourishing while still being full of flavor. The creamy coconut milk, spicy chilis, salty fish sauce, aromatic spices, and sweet rice come together in a symphony of deliciousness.

Tuesday, in my MCAT class, my friend Jacqui brought Tom Yum soup to class and taunted me with it for the following three hours. A drop of saliva literally fell onto my Ochem book. It was disgusting.

So, tonight I finally made my own Thai food and I would just like to say

it was superb.

And the perfect remedy for a sneezy, sickly college kid.

Traditional Thai Tom Yum Soup

Recipe: Makes 2 large servings

Prep time: 15 minutes *  Cook time: 30 minutes * Difficulty: Low


  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, lower 1/3 finely minced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen at Asian stores)
  • 20 raw shrimp, shelled (about 40-50 g protein worth)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (I used 1 1/2)
  • 1-2 small red chilies, minced (I used 1)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful shiitake mushrooms (I used 2 crimini)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 can coconut milk (USE FULL FAT, YA HO!)
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • optional: additional vegetables (I used 2 baby bok choy and a handful of mung bean sprouts) additional chilies, chili sauce, brown sugar, or lime juice

Directions – 

  1. Pour the stock into a deep cooking pot and turn heat to medium high. Add lemongrass to the pot, including the upper part you didnt mince. Boil 5-6 minutes, until fragrant.
  2. Reduce heat slightly to a simmer. Add garlic, chili, lime leaves, and mushrooms to broth. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp, bell pepper, bok choy, and bean sprouts. Simmer 5-6 minutes, or until shrimp are pink.
  4. Turn down the heat to low and add 1/2 can of coconut mlk plus the fish sauce. Taste test the soup for spice and salt, adding more chili or fish sauce as desired. If too sour, add 1 tsp brown sugar. If too salty, add a squeeze of lime juice. Add more coconut milk for a creamier soup (I added the whole can).
  5. 5. Serve in bowls with fresh cilantro (aka coriander) sprinkled on top. Enjoy!!

Seriously, just put on your big girl panties (or briefs?)  and go buy the “exotic” ingredients. This is a recipe worth repeating again and again. You can freeze the lime leaves and the fish sauce stays good…. forever.


Chilies * filled with capsaicin which can help fight inflammation. They have also been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood triglycerides, and thus can be considered heart healthy. The heat that you feel after eating chili peppers has to come from somewhere – that would be your metabolism! Also, a recent study showed that eating just a little chili pepper a day helped participants sleep better that night.

Garlic * packed with antioxidants that fight aging, cancer, and heart disease. Garlic can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and eliminate free radicals (which cause cellular damage). It is also used to treat asthma and certain unpleasant infections.

Shrimp * extremely high in protein and low in fat! Contains selenium, tryptophan, vitamin D (key for bone health), B12, iron (needed for a healthy thyroid), phosphorous, B3, and zinc. The fat that shrimp does contain is the healthy monounsaturated kind.

Bell peppers * an extremely potent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and antioxidants. They also contain fiber, B6, folate, and vitamin K.

Coconut * coconut gets a bad rap because of its saturated fat content, but its fatty acids are mainly medium-chain triglycerides, not long-chain. The long-chain triglycerides are bad for our cholesterol levels, but coconut has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. Animal studies suggest that medium-chain triglycerides can increase metabolism.

10 thoughts on “Love me some Tom Yum

  1. Awwww So sad you are sick 😦 Hope you start feeling better! Lots of vitamin C!!!

    I’ve never tried Tom yum before…but the name sounds extra yummy!

  2. hahaha at the last line of the ‘garlic’ description! hehe. I honestly think it also helps beat/prevent the common cold… my husband’s grandfather used to eat a whole clove of it every time he started to get sick as a child and swears by it, although he won’t eat anything seasoned with garlic now. 😉 But I sprinkle a little on anything savory I eat and I think it helps me avoid the various plagues that sweep through the clinic I work at (knock on wood)!!!

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