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Hot and Sour Fish Soup | Tom Klong Pla | ต้มโคล้งปลา

When the boyfriend’s parents were in town a few weeks ago, they introduced me to Thai-style hot and sour soup (tom klong bla/ต้มโคล้งปลา).  This soup is made with a fragrant blend of herbs, tart tamarind juice, and spicy dried chilis.  This combination of ingredients produces a nice, round taste that’s sour and spicy all at the same time.  It’s a great way to wake up your senses!  In Thailand, the soup is commonly made with smoked fish, but it can also be made with fresh fish like we did.  Luckily for you, in addition to teaching me how to make this soup, his parents also agreed to let me post the recipe on my blog! 

Hot and Sour Fish Soup | Tom Klong Pla | ต้มโคล้งปลา

Makes 5-6 servings

Hot and Sour Fish Soup | Tom Klong Pla | ต้มโคล้งปลา


  • 1 large fillet sturgeon, wide-mouth bass, or mudfish
  • 1/2 inch galangal
  • 5 lemongrass stalks
  • 5 shallots
  • 10 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1 cup tamarind juice
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 12-15 dried chili peppers


  1. Start by slicing the fish into 1/4 inch thick pieces (we used sturgeon here).
  2. Then prepare your herbs. Slice the galangal and lemongrass into very thin slices. Use only the bottom, tender part of the lemongrass and discard the tougher top portion. Cut the shallots in half and bruise them with the back of a chef's knife. Tear the kaffir lime leaves into quarters and coarsely chop the cilantro leaves.
  3. Prepare the tamarind juice by mixing 1-2 cups warm water with a 2 inch block of wet tamarind. Work the tamarind into a paste until it's about the consistency of thin ketchup and then strain to get rid of the seeds and veins.
  4. Heat the dried chili peppers over low heat in a dry pan until they turn dark red, almost black. Take off heat and crush lightly. You can use gloves or saran wrap to protect your hands from the heat of the peppers. Use as many or as few chilis as you like - I believe we used 12 and just as I was saying in English that the soup was the perfect level of spiciness, the boyfriend's mom was saying in Thai that it was not spicy enough :)
  5. Now you're ready to start making the soup! Heat the lemongrass, galangal, and shallots over medium heat in a dry pot until they start to brown. Add the water and bring the soup to a boil. Once the soup has boiled for several minutes, add the fish sauce and tamarind juice and adjust to your tastes.
  6. Add the fish pieces and allow to cook until they are done. Don't stir the soup too much at this point - just put a lid on the pot and let the fish cook uninterrupted. Then add the kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, and dry roasted chilis and cook for a minute more.
  7. Turn the heat off and serve immediately.

2 comments… add one
  • Rachel September 3, 2011, 9:48 am

    Hi Barney – this recipe makes 5-6 servings using a very generous fillet of sturgeon.

  • Barney September 2, 2011, 11:53 pm

    How many does this recipe serve?
    Thank you!

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