To kill multiple birds with one stone, and also have my own permanent record of this particular formula, I bring you the Tom Yum Goong "recipe" from Kat & Eric's Bread and Soup party.
Why the quotes? Well, because I get a Woody Allen-like stutter whenever I try to say the word "recipe". I have a terrible problem with authority in general, and when I'm lording over my stove like some deranged Emperor in a 'Kitchen Bitch' apron, I find myself just wanting to shout at that little 3x5 card. It thinks it's so smart... like some unknown fat guy in a faraway kitchen knows how to cook this sh*t better than me? NEVER!!
"Why all the rage?"
"This mysterious chef knows NOTHING!"
"Perhaps you're being a bit --"
"NOTHING!! He uses coriander leaves when he should have used cilantro!"
"But they're the same th--"
"You doubt my powers!? Do you know this cowardly chef? What are you hiding?"
"No, I'm just saying,"
"Why don't you go make the bread already."
(... and thus was Talk Like Brian Michael Bendis Day satisfied.)
But REALLY... here's the general list of ingredients and rough outline of their assembly:
WARNING: This recipe is my best estimation of proportions. First, I don't measure squat. Second, I made about 30 cups of this stuff for the party, so I'm doing my best to scale down. May be far off on fish sauce, lime juice, and/or hot peppers/paste. Use your own tongue to adjust those ingredients to your liking. This is certainly a passable starting point, though.
6 c. chicken stock (or broth)
2 shallots, chopped
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
1 roughly 2-inch chunk of fresh galangal (or ginger in a pinch... find youself a southeast Asian market!!)
6 kaffir lime leaves (no substitutes... can't find 'em, just do without)
4-5 T. fish sauce (to taste)
4-5 T. fresh lime juice (to taste)
4 fresh Thai finger-long peppers
2 T. prik pao (Thai oil-based chile paste)
1 can Straw Mushrooms (preferably cured in brine)
1 can Abalone Mushrooms (as above, but you'll want to cut these into smaller pieces)
1 can sliced bamboo shoots
1/2 lb. shrimp or prawns (de-veined and shelled except for tail)
fresh cilantro leaves (to taste)
chinese hot oil (if desired)
I make the soup base a day in advance, and then freeze it. The freezing process deepens the flavor, I find. Thawed out later, you can adjust the flavor accordingly. You certainly don't HAVE to, and can just do this all in one go for same-day consumption.
Bring broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile, remove a couple of the drier outer layers from your lemongrass, and then chop into 1-inch sticks. Rough 'em up a little with a meat tenderizer or other heavy object. Slice the galangal into 1/8" thick rounds. Tear the lime leaves into several pieces each. When boiling, add the prepped lemon grass, the galangal rounds, the lime leaves, and one of the chopped shallots. Return to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Chop at least 2 of the finger-long peppers into 1/2 lengths. Add the peppers and prik pao paste to the pot. Also add the fish sauce and lime juice. Bring to a boil and then back off to a slow simmer. Simmer for at least 5 minutes. Taste the base and adjust as necessary with additional fish sauce, lime juice, or spicy stuff. When you're generally happy with the taste, you now have your base.
If you're going to freeze for future use, turn off the heat and toss in a small handful of cilantro. Stir in and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Then strain out all the solids and freeze the resulting liquid.
If you're moving on immediately, or whenever you have re-thawed and heated a batch of frozen base to nearly boiling, you can finish the soup. If thawed, taste the mixture. Chances are, it will be a little spicier and probably lime-ier. You can even out lime with a little more fish sauce. If it's too spicy, you can add more chicken stock. Any other adjustments are up to you, with spice or fish/lime flavor balance.
Add the mushrooms and the bamboo shoots. Return mix to almost boiling. Reduce heat to simmer, and add your raw shrimp. They'll be cooked in about 3-5 minutes, and the soup should be served as quickly as possible afterwards.
Optional items: For an extra burst of tangy flavor, throw in additional lemon grass, lime leaves, or galangal at the same time as the shrimp. I'd definitely recommend throwing in additional fresh cilantro just before serving. I like to add a bit of chinese hot oil just at the end. It gives a nice punch to the soup, and leaves little red bubbles of oil floating on the top.
(If you really want to go all-out, you can start the soup by bringing the chicken stock to a boil, then simmering with the shrimp shells and heads - if available - for about 10 minutes, prior to doing anything else in the recipe. This will extract an extra-authentic flavor for the soup, and leave little bubbles of shrimp oil - especially if the heads were used - floating on top of the soup. That's what you get in good Thai restaurants. Strain out the solids, then carry on as shown.)
Serve with lime wedges, hot peppers, bean sprouts, and cilantro.