Tom yum plaa, Thai hot and sour fish soup

Coming home with a nice looking bunch of sawtooth coriander and Thai basil bai horapa ใบโหระพา (not to be confused with holy basil), I decided to cook a pot of tom yum plaa.  Tom yum is pretty common on Thai menus in the US, usually with shrimp, tom yum koong.  I love the fish version, that is less commonly found in restaurants.  This version has an addition of savory herbs, Thai basil, kaffir lime leaf, cilantro, sawtooth coriander, green onion.


many of the green ingredients that are going into the soup, from bottom: Thai basil (horapa), above that lemon grass, sawtooth coriander, cilantro, field mushrooms, green onions, limes.

List of ingredients:

  • 4 cups water or stock–or to the amount you need–stock should cover fish by about an inch
  • 2-3 stalks fresh lemon grass, tough green tops cut off, (mostly white part) cut into 3″ lengths and banged up
  • Thick slice galangal, banged up (or 2-3 slices of dried galangal)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and slapped with a blunt object to split them open
  • 2 tsp of sea salt
  • About 1 lb or less whitefish or catfish (I used 6 fillets of frozen whiting), cut into large bite-sized hunks
  • 4-5 pieces fresh kaffir lime leaf (i.e. 2 pairs of leaves)
  • 4+ fresh Thai chilies, split in half, as few/many as you like
  • Fresh tomato, sliced into wedges. If using small tomatoes use a few
  • small pack field mushrooms, cut lengthwise into quarters or sixths if large
  • Handfuls of the following, roughly chopped: sawtooth coriander, cilantro, green onions, Thai basil leaves (horapa)
  • fish sauce.  Probably about a tablespoon or more, to taste.
  • 1-2 limes, depending on size of limes

This soup is very simple.  Bring the water to boil.  Throw in the lemon grass, galangal, garlic, salt.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Add in the fish, chiles, tomatoes, kaffir lime leaf, mushrooms.  Cook until mushrooms and fish are just cooked (might be another 5 minutes).  Add in the handfuls of leafy herbs and taste for seasoning.  If it doesn’t seem salty enough, keep adding fish sauce.  This will really help to bring the soup together.  When the seasoning is right, and the leaves are nicely wilted, turn heat off.  I like to add lime juice directly to the bowl before adding soup.  If you have a large bowl, start with 1/2 a lime’s juice.  Lime can also be added to the pot directly.  The soup should be kind of sour and complex with the flavors of galangal, lemon grass, and leafy herbs.


My finished product. Not super photogenic, but full of flavor

This dish is a nice accompaniment to Thai or Chinese stir fry dishes–and jasmine rice of course.

About David Dettmann

Food obsessed and frequently nostalgic.
This entry was posted in - Featured Food Discoveries, - Recipes, Thai/Lao food and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tom yum plaa, Thai hot and sour fish soup

  1. Pingback: Kaffir lime leaves and kaffir limes | Asian Markets of Philadelphia

  2. Pingback: Unusual food finds at Cousin’s Supermarket in North Philly | Asian Markets of Philadelphia

  3. Pingback: The fresh herb section | Asian Markets of Philadelphia

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