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Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่

I still remember the first time I had the real Tom Yum soup.

I was visiting Bangkok to see my hubby (boyfriend at the time).  After running around to temples, palaces, and other must-see tourist destinations in the sweltering heat all day, we decided to spend a quiet evening in at the hotel.  Hubby ordered room service, and I kicked back, excited to sample the array of Thai dishes he had ordered.

Without knowing what each bowl contained, I lifted the lids and dug in, savoring all of the unique flavor combinations.

One dish in particular stood out to me, with its fiery red broth accented with fragrant citrus.  I thought perhaps it was some delicious variation of a red curry because it was just so spicy and rich.  But after mentioning this to hubby, he informed me that it was actually Tom Yum soup — just a really good one, and so unlike the watered-down versions I had experienced before!

Many years and many, many tastes of Thai food later, I still can’t get enough of the bold flavors of an authentic Tom Yum soup.

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่

The invigorating spice from the chilis, the refreshing tang from the limes, and the citrusy fragrance from the kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass…  They all combine so wonderfully to create a soup that is refreshing, yet deeply satisfying.

Last night, I made a big pot of Tom Yum soup with chicken, and was reminded of that first taste of the real thing in Bangkok.

I can’t remember now, but I imagine that it was made with the more common choice of shrimp (Tom Yum Goong).  As much as I love Tom Yum Goong, there’s something really nice about biting into tender, thinly-sliced pieces of chicken infused with the wonderfully spicy and sour broth.

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่

It’s the perfect soup to enjoy on a cold winter’s night….

or a sweltering summer day spent exploring Thailand’s temples….

or really any day, for that matter!

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่

Makes 4 servings

Hot and Sour Chicken Soup | Tom Yum Gai | ต้มยำไก่


  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 red Thai chilis, bruised
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into segments and bruised
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves, deveined and torn
  • 6 rounds of galangal, very thinly sliced
  • 3-4 Asian shallots or 1 large shallot cut in half
  • 1/2 pound chicken, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms (straw, beech, enoki, or other mild varieties)
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons roasted chili paste
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered (optional)


  1. Pour the chicken broth into a pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the bruised Thai chilis, bruised lemongrass segments, torn kaffir lime leaves, galangal rounds, and shallots. Allow the herbs to simmer in the chicken broth for about 15 minutes, or until their scent has permeated the liquid.
  2. Use a mesh strainer to remove the herbs from the broth, retaining the chilis in the liquid if you prefer a spicier soup.
  3. Add the mushrooms and sliced chicken and allow to cook through, approximately 5-10 minutes. If you are adding tomatoes, add them at this point as well.
  4. Season the soup with fish sauce, lime juice, and roasted chili paste. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings as needed. The flavor should be equally (and boldly!) spicy and sour with enough saltiness to bring out the other flavors. If it is not salty enough, add fish sauce. If it is not sour enough, add lime juice. If it is not spicy enough, press the Thai chilis into the side of the pot with the back of your spoon to release more of their flavor.
  5. Take the soup off the heat and add in the chopped cilantro. Serve over hot jasmine rice and enjoy!

23 comments… add one
  • Sara December 31, 2018, 8:18 am

    This is calling for raw thin sliced chicken breast, correct? I’ve been dying to find a good recipe for Tom Yum so I don’t spend an arm and a leg every time I have a craving

    • Rachel January 1, 2019, 4:50 am

      Hi Sara, yep, I use raw thinly sliced chicken for this soup. Hope it turns out great for you!

  • Andreas August 6, 2018, 10:16 pm

    Hi Rachel,

    this recipe is simply amazing. I had canned straw mushrooms and fresh “common” or champignon mushroom as it’s called around here. I opted for the fresh one and it tasted great.

    So simple, so tasty :-)

    Thank’s a lot Rachel!

  • Amber April 19, 2017, 5:13 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    I just wanted to thank you for posting all these wonderful recipes with pictured instructions on your website. I have been looking to recreate some dishes when I used to frequent a Thai Restaurant. The tom yum soup was great. A little spicy, so maybe a little less chili paste for me next time, but I was surprised how close it was to the restaurant. Do you think in restaurants they add sugar to soups or certain dishes to sweeten them up? Thanks again!!!

    • Rachel April 19, 2017, 6:52 pm

      Hi Amber, glad to hear that it turned out well for you! Yes, unfortunately a lot of restaurants add too much sugar to their dishes in attempts to tone down the spice and cater to the “American palate”…

  • Cham December 24, 2016, 4:34 am

    Hello Rachel, I am from Malaysia. I used your recipe as reference just recently using tauhu, fishballs and fish head instead. It’s really, really delicious… thank you for the inspiration.

    • Rachel January 12, 2017, 12:13 am

      Glad to hear it, Cham!

  • Adam December 16, 2016, 8:17 pm

    Hi Rachel. Is this something that can be made the night before in preparation for a dinner party?

    • Rachel December 18, 2016, 9:50 pm

      Hi Adam! Sure, this soup does well when made ahead of time.

  • Joseph November 13, 2016, 3:39 am

    Thank you so much, this is very helpful and detailed!. Living in Australia makes me missed this kind of exotic soup so much but had problems with finding particular ingredients. Especially when I desperately want it so bad, the ingredients needed are also clearly stated with some alternative available, which is the great points, so I can find it here. Thanks Rachel !



    • Margaret Broadbent April 21, 2017, 2:11 pm

      Just to say, I had the best tom yum soup ever at the Fish Shack in Manley, Sydney. We were on holiday from the UK.

  • Jackie August 10, 2016, 9:51 pm

    Yes! This was the flavor that I was missing. None of the other recipes I found had lived up to the first bowl of this I ever had in a little hole in the wall restaurant. I love how you helped us tweak the flavor at the end to get the exact flavor profile we want. It is perfectly salty, sour, spicy and rich.

    • Rachel August 12, 2016, 5:51 pm

      Wonderful, so glad to hear it Jackie!

  • Savannah Randolph June 24, 2016, 3:35 pm

    This is one my my favorite soups!! So glad I found your blog, I lived in Thailand for a few years and your recipes are so authentic !!

  • paul April 30, 2016, 3:41 am

    Hi is this recipe pretty healthy?

    • Rachel April 30, 2016, 5:08 pm

      I guess it depends on your definition of healthy… I’d classify it as pretty healthy :)

  • krystal March 3, 2016, 7:41 pm

    I just had breakfast not too long ago, but my mouth was watering by the end of this post!

    • Rachel March 3, 2016, 11:58 pm

      Haha, awesome Krystal :)

  • allispinkk February 25, 2016, 7:35 am

    I dunno why I get very much excited when you put up a post, I have never had Thai food and I am a vegetarian too. But still I look forward for your posts and feel happy if you post.

    • Rachel February 25, 2016, 6:13 pm

      Aww, that’s so sweet – thank you for the lovely comment! You can totally adapt this soup to be vegetarian too…. Just use several different types of mushroom instead of chicken, and salt instead of fish sauce :)

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