it's not over 'til it's over: thai tom yum soup

Thai tom yum soup
We haven't even got Christmas out the way and I am asking you to think about leftovers. But trust me. A little preparation now will help avoid a whole world of hurt. And apart from all that, this soup can cure the mother of all Christmas hangovers. Trust me, I'm a kitchen witch; I've felt your pain and I am certain I have the cure!

I am asking you to make some Thai chilli paste (nam prik pao) right now. It is a fabulous foundation of a whole number of dishes - perfect in stir fries of rice, noodles or vegetables. It makes a great dipping sauce or a topping for burger and is lovely here cooked through a spicy hot and sour soup. There's not much that isn't improved by a dollop of nam prik pao (well maybe custard perhaps, although I am sure there is some enterprising gastronaut out there prepared to prove me wrong!)

Thai tom yum soup
This Thai tom yum (hot and sour) soup recipe was originally a vegan soup I found in the New Covent Garden Soup Company's Soup and Beyond: Soups, Beans and Other Things (1999). But I do like a carnivorous version with chicken or turkey. It also works very nicely with cooked prawns, salmon, strips of leftover roast beef or marinated tofu.

This is often my go-to meal when I have roasted a chicken for Sunday lunch. But I am asking you to think about it this Christmas. If you are wondering what to do with your Christmas debris and leftover detritus , the turkey carcass goes into the stockpot with some veg and herbs for a gentle simmer and to create the foundation of the soup. A little of the leftovers stripped off tops the whole dish off, making this soup a versatile and frugal meal, as well as a perfect way of dealing with Christmas leftovers.

Serves 4
Skill level: Easy
Preparation time: about 1 hour


nam prik pao sauce (Thai chilli paste)
1 tbsp vegetable oil  
1 litre stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 x lemongrass stick, bruised/smashed (if using lemongrass paste, you will need about 1 tsp)
5 x kaffir lime leaves (dried ones work as well as fresh) 

crisp vegetables, julienned (I use a mixture of oyster mushrooms, red pepper, carrots, celery and baby
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime (or lemon) juice
1 tsp sugar, to taste
salt, to taste
leftover roast chicken
a handful of mangetout
cooked soup noodles (optional)
fresh coriander, finely chopped, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. 
  2. Add about 2 tablespoons of the nam prik pao and gently fry. Stir constantly until the sauce thickens and darkens in colour. It should be a dark, reddish brown colour. 
  3. Add the stock and stir through. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. 
  4. Add the vegetables (except for the mangetout), lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Gently simmer for about 10 minutes. 
  5. Add the soy sauce and lime juice and check the seasoning. You may need to add a little sugar (about 1 teaspoon) and some salt at this stage. (It will depend on how salty your stock is). 
  6. Add the cooked meat or fish if using, as well as the soup noodles and mangetout. Cook for another couple of minutes until the added ingredients are warmed through. 
  7. Serve garnished with a little chopped coriander.


  • If I am using meat or fish, I do like to use a couple of tablespoons of the uncooked nam prik pao sauce to marinate for a couple of hours (or overnight). 
  • Substitute store-bought Thai chilli paste (nam prik pao) or tom yum paste instead of making your own.

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