Tom Yum (Yam) Soup

By DK on Oct 27, 2011
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
I love soup. There was a time when it was not so. I sure have come a long way from those days.  In fact, I prefer having Soup as my main meal, although I can't say the same thing for my other half which is why my lunches are mostly soup. Its perfect for all seasons. Cooling light soup for the hot days and warm, hearty soup for the winter! Oh and peppery goodness for the rainy days. Coming to today's soup. This Thai Soup has been on request from my husband for a long while now. Thai cuisine is one of the toughest when it comes to making them vegetarian while retaining the original flavor. And there is only one reason for it - Fish sauce. Its immensely crucial to most of Thai dishes and without it, its simply not Thai at least for those who have tasted the real deal. But apart from it (provided you are not as fussy about authenticity but would swap for any great flavor), if you happen to carry few choicest ingredients, you are good to recreate some yummy Thai food at home.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
Personally for me (Galangal + lemongrass + Kaffir Lime leaves + Soy Sauce + Lime + Coconut Milk + Thai Bird's Eye Chillies + Cilantro/Mint/Thai Basil) = Vegetarian/Vegan Thai Cuisine!
The fish sauce (nam pla) as you can see has been replaced with Soy sauce. This savory flavor balanced  with the other aromatics competes to a certain degree with the real one - at least to a degree that would please a Vegetarian's palate without feeling cheated. This Tom Yum Soup (or more correctly Tom Yam) falls into this category. Usually Shrimp or Prawn play a pivotal role in this soup which has been replaced by Tofu in this version to provide the protein aspect of it. The meatiness comes from the mushrooms while I added the carrots for color. And yes, the extra vitamin A does not hurt now, does it ;).  You can skip the coconut milk and use a little milk or simply skip it altogether replacing it with additional stock. There is no "perfect" version for this soup since it relies predominantly on the foodie's taste buds. So feel free to use this for a base recipe and add/subtract herbs/vegetables/spices as per your requirement.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
Several online resources helped me in creating this dish in my kitchen. But I have listed only 3 of them which I finally zeroed in with all the notes that I had gathered and these came closest to creating the authentic flavors. Hence have mentioned only these sites.
Recipe references from temple of thai, and
Basic Information
Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 15 min
Serves: 4 people
Yield: Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as an appetizer
  • 6 cups Water or Vegetable stock
  • 3 Kaffir Lime leaves (see Tips)
  • 2-3 inches of Galangal, sliced (see Tips)
  • 1 stalk Lemongrass, minced (see Tips)
  • 4 tbsp Soy Sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp Lime juice
  • 1 cup Baby Mushrooms, sliced (or use any mushrooms)
  • 1 Carrot, julienned
  • 12.3 Oz Mori Nu (Extra Firm) Silken Tofu (see Tips)
  • 2 Spring Onions, sliced thinly
  • 1-2 tsp Thai Bird's Eye Chillies, crushed; or to taste (See Tips)
  • 5.46 fl.oz (about 3/4 cup) Thai Coconut milk (see Tips)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar, or to taste (optional)
  • About 1 cup Cilantro (or use Thai Basil), chopped
Please Remember that with every ingredient that you substitute the flavor of the soup changes (and possibly further away from traditional Thai flavors).
1. Kaffir Lime Leaves - I had a hard time finding the fresh ones and finally managed to locate shredded lime leaves in a bottle and used them. These shredded bits bothered my husband while having the soup, hence next time I might use them to flavor the stock and filter them away before using it in the soup.
2. Galangal - Though Ginger is often touted as a substitute for Galangal, I personally think that the aroma and taste that it had was no way remotely close to ginger. It lacks the sharp peppery taste of ginger and instead has an immensely citrusy flavor. Reminded me of Eucalyptus. See if you can find the bottled version before using Ginger.
3. Lemongrass - Try to find the fresh ones. Don't go for the powdered/ dried versions. Also try the freezer cos some shops carry the frozen lemongrass. To prep the lemongrass, remove the tough outer leaves and chop off about 2 inches of the lower bulb. Slice the fleshy part - about 2/3rds of the stalk. The upper end will be mostly green and woody and is not great for slicing. You can use these as it is for soups/broths.
4. Tofu - You can use any soft tofu. I have been generous with my tofu since I was going for a soup-as-a-meal. About 1 cup of tofu should be enough as an appetizer.
5. Chillies - The Bird's Eye Chilli is authentic to this soup. But if not available, you can use dried red chillies.
6. Coconut Milk - Few versions use coconut milk, while few others don't. You can instead increase the stock or use few tbsp of coconut cream or just plain milk. I had a can lying around that I wanted to use and hence did. Use as per taste
Bring the stock/water to a boil. Add Galangal, lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves to the broth.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
Next goes in the tofu and carrots. The carrots need to soften and the tofu needs to absorb the flavor to prevent it from being bland.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
Once the water comes to boil and the carrots are almost soft, add the mushrooms.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
After 1 -2 mins add the soy sauce  and sugar is using. You can do a taste test and see if you need any more seasoning.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
Reduce the heat and then add the coconut milk.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
Then add the lime juice, chillies and cilantro. Adding them last helps to keep the broth fresh tasting and full of flavor. Taste test again -  You can add more crushed chillies for extra zing and spiciness. If you need more salt, add little more soy sauce (or just plain old salt). If you find that you have added lots of lime juice and its tasting sour, add sugar. But if the salt-sweet ratio seems kinda off, add little more lime juice. The recipe is dependent on customization to one's palate and needs. So feel free to make changes.
Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
Serve warm with additional chillies on the side and more cilantro. Vegetarian Thai Soup Recipe with Tofu and Mushrooms
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22 Responses to “Tom Yum (Yam) Soup”
  1. Gaby

    Your recipe calls for spring onions, no where in your instructions are they implemented.

  2. Heidi

    Thank you for the recipe–I’m vegan and have been missing tom yum ever since I became vegetarian 10 yrs ago. By the way, I was able to find a vegetarian fish sauce in an Asian grocery store.

  3. genesis

    nice i also cannot get the basil in my area thx maybe i can try to add tomato or something specialy

  4. nana

    Thank you!!! I will try this recipe asap!!! Im trying to convert myself to being a vegetarian. I can’t wait to make this for my vegan boyfriend

  5. asr

    How come you have skipped basil? Isn’t that a key ingredient in Thai cuisine?

    Thai basil is. But I dont get it in the area I live. But you can feel free to use it

  6. Pavan

    Awesome recipe. I live in bay area but couldn’t find a place where they sell kaffir lime leaves. Do you know where I can find these?


    As I have mentioned in the “Tips” section (point 1) I did not find the fresh leaves myself! :( The one I have used is the one that comes in the bottle that I found at Whole Foods. Different stores carry different items (depending on the demand in that particular area), so even if you dont find it in one, do check for it in another. Also you can ask for it in the store. They might order or provide you details of where it is available. I find them very accommodating and helpful :)

  7. Wow..Soup luks like whole meal..I luv’ed the mention of making thai food as veg..

  8. Being a Native Malaysian, I am very familiar with this soup & have also wrote a complete post on that. Apart, coming to this, It’s really one of the best savory & healthy soups. Nice Recipe.

  9. Hi DK, Your Tom Yum Soup recipe has been selected to be featured in a Recipe Guessing Game. Please share the following link with your friends and fans. To play, go here: Congrats again!! :)

  10. xokiwwiox

    Your blog is just fantastic. You help me a lot for my gcse praticle exam. thank you so much! keep on;)

  11. hey ! first time here, and loved the space as well as the Soup :-) hop over sometime to my blog !

    cheers, :)

    Join me in GFF – a 100-day Global Food Festival here
    New event all this November: Flavours of China

  12. Rachita

    awesome…my hubby loved it…i replaced d tofu with chicken & also added babycorn… ws mind blowing…..!!thnx Chefin You!

  13. kiran singh
  14. Thank you so much, have been looking for the vegetarian version for longer time.

  15. Lovely bowl,just drooling over that bowl.

  16. Vini

    Hi DK,
    I follow ur blog quite regularly.the brownies from ur site are the best i have made to i thought of giving this little input.I am a non vegetarian and have had lots of thai food..i tried this veg version from this site and loved it.Not sure if u already have tried.but thought of sharing it with u..
    there are some other good recipes and tips also.

    I saw it just now…I seem to have covered the tips here already as well :) But thanks for the link shoutout..I am sure it will be of help in future :)


  17. Perfect for ‘After Diwali’ :)

  18. vineeta

    is this sweet soup DK?

  19. Looks perfect for this fall weather Dhiv!

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