Before I moved to Thailand, I had never eaten Thai food. I always cooked my own meals, mostly inspired from Mexican style meals, and I worked at an Italian restaurant, so I always ate Italian food as well.
Then 4 years ago, my life flipped upside down in a very good way when I discovered Thai food.
And here I am today experimenting and creating my own Thai recipes after eating them every day for the last 4 years.
They’re the perfect compliment to a ketogenic diet or a Paleo lifestyle.
Whether you’ve enjoyed Thai food in the states, in your home country, or here in Thailand.. if you have eaten Thai food before, chances are you know what Tom Yum is.
My new favorite Tom Yum is Tom Yum Goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง).
For a while, I always went with the gai (chicken) or even the less common Tom Yum moo (pork), but these days I am eating less meat and more seafood/shellfish, so I happily eat a lot of Tom Yum Goongs.
I like both versions, depending on where I am ordering, or what cooking mood I’m in, but there are 2 popular Tom Yums.
One Tom Yum called, Tom Yum Nam Khon is a creamy version (made with coconut milk or evaporated milk).
The other is a clear version called Tom Yum Nam Sai.
Because I love my healthy fats, I usually opt for the creamy one, and with coconut, not the evaporated milk.
I will confirm how they cook it before ordering when eating out, and when we cook it (THIS RECIPE), it not only has coconut milk, but it includes a special sauce made with the fat of shrimp heads.
You’ll only get the special sauce if you’re eating it at a fancy place or if you’re getting some good, home-cooked Thai traditional Tom Yum.
This sauce you won’t find in many recipes online, nor will you see it in many local eateries in Thailand. But it makes a big difference, both for flavor and for the nutrition (it adds some nice healthy fats from the shrimp).
So now let me jump into the recipe.
We included tons of images, so you can see clearly, how to make the special sauce, as well as the rest of this amazing, tantalizing and traditional Thai broth Tom Yum Goong.
Tom Yum Goong Step One:
Get your ingredients ready.
- Thai Red Chili Paste
- Fish sauce
- Roma tomatoes
- Straw mushrooms
- Fresh kefir lime leaves
Here are the ingredients right before we started cooking:
The only ingredient not pictured is the fish sauce used at the very end.
Next, heat up some water in a pan and get ready to get your hands a little dirty.
The first step is to make the fatty shrimp head special sauce…
This is what makes this recipe special. I've yet to see this elsewhere, so be happy you found this!
The Tom Yum shrimp head special sauce uses fat from inside the shrimp heads.
Tum Yum Goong Special Sauce: How it’s done
Pull off the meaty bodies (you’ll use these in just a minute) and get all the shrimp head fat into a strainer, like so..
Get as much as you can into a bowl underneath the strainer:
It comes off pretty easily.
The trick is to smash it through with a spoon.
You’ll want to detach the meaty bodies, set those aside, then use the shrimp head left over to make this.
It should look something like this as you take out the shrimp heads and squeeze their fat through the strainer into the bowl:
This is the hardest part.
After this, you mix in the Thai Chili paste.
You can find this same brand on Amazon.
It’s a good one.
No MSG, and no bad stuff.
When you’re cooking Thai food, you kinda need these things, so although you can get away without using Thai chili paste, it’s an integral part. The trick is to get all natural ones, as just as with chicken boullon, there are ones out there that possess artificial ingredients and MSG.
Here’s the one we used and a link to buy it on Amazon.
Then add some coconut milk.
You can also use canned evaporated milk, but if you’re shooting for optimal health, which is something I always am, I try to stick to the healthiest ingredients I can.
It’s a perfect complement to Thai dishes and to your morning coffee if you’re not a fan of coconut or MCT oil, yet you still want some MCT health benefits.
This one you should be able to find at your local grocery store or Asian market.
If not, or if you prefer to order online, you can also find it on Amazon.
The end product of the special shrimp head sauce should look something like this:
Step 2: Chop the veggies
Next, comes the veggie chopping.
Lemongrass, galangal, shallots and coriander.
We’ll start with the lemongrass.
First, smash the stalks to bring out the flavor..
Then slice them up in semi-large pieces.
I italicize the semi-large part because often you’ll find lemongrass that is thinly sliced.
All this does is create a nuisance out of the dish.
Perhaps some enjoy eating lemongrass.. or perhaps they like picking tiny pieces of it out, but for me, as mindful as I am of my food, I prefer to not have to watch out for tiny stalks of lemongrass or tiny slices that are hard to eat if not cooked for a long enough period of time.
Then the galangal.
This one you should cut semi-thin, in order to maximize the flavor drawn out.
It’s not one you can easily smash to bring out the flavor like you do with lemongrass.
Then the shallots:
And lastly, the coriander:
The coriander you won’t use until the very end, but when you make the shrimp broth (step 3) you’ll need to use the coriander roots.
Step 3: Shrimp Broth Time
Here is where you’ll use the coriander roots you just chopped off.
Now that you took out the shrimp heads’ fat and have that in a separate “special sauce” bowl, you’ll use the empty shell left behind, along with all the shrimp meat and pieces of head leftover, inside this pot of hot water in order to create a hearty shrimp broth.
It all goes in:
This is why you don’t throw these away after emptying them.
Here you can see the coriander roots used:
Cook this for a bit until the shrimp cooks through at least halfway..
It should look more white and less raw before you strain it.
This is the bulk of the cooking.
Then comes the straining.
Strain the shrimp into a big bowl.
After you strain the cooked shrimp and shrimp parts, separate off the shells.
At this point, you can toss the shells.
Then put all that strained broth back into the pot.
Step 4: Use the broth you just made
You’ll want to use the chopped veggies at this point.
Put the shallots, galangal, lemongrass and coriander roots into the pot full of the shrimp broth you just made.
It’ll look a bit like this:
Still waiting are the kefir lime leaves, the grape tomatoes, mushrooms and the special fatty shrimp head sauce with the freshly cooked shrimp sitting inside…
So you can go ahead and toss everything in except for the coriander freshly chopped, and the kefir lime leaves.
The mushrooms take some time to cook, so let them cook for a few minutes before proceeding to add in the kefir lime leaves.
If the neighbor’s cats are starting to hound you, it means that you’re cooking it up just right.
Here is White, my next door neighbor’s cat who is always here..
..especially when we’re cooking.
We usually give her some of the goods.
She eats the chicken bones, shrimp shells, geckos, baby chickens.
She’s a lover to humans, and a monster to anything else..
Next step, toss in the special sauce with the cooked shrimp:
And then the kefir lime leaves:
We’re almost done at this point.
And the aroma filling your kitchen should be starting to fill the house and making everyone salivate.
At this point, you need to smash up the chili peppers and put them in a bowl with the chopped cilantro:
In this same bowl, you need to add a bit of fish sauce (you can replace with sea salt if you can’t find a gluten-free fish sauce)..
..as well as some freshly squeezed lime juice.
And that’s it.
We’re basically done at this point.
The reason you don’t want to put the lime juice and fish sauce and peppers into the hot cooking pot of Tom Yum Goong, is because it’ll evaporate the flavors.
It’s best to have those as additions to the already freshly cooked Tom Yum.
Put it all in the bowl, and you’re done!
Step 5: Enjoy the Tom Yum Goong Greatness
One thing I do when I want to get some extra fats in, especailly when I don’t eat this with a side of white rice or a side of cauliflower rice, is I add some fresh avocado.
Maybe it’s the Mexican in me.
Or maybe it’s the keto thing.
But adding avocado is a perfect compliment.
Although I am told by my girlfriend everytime I do it, that it’s basically blasphemy to the Tom Yum Goong. Fine by me:)
Here are the images of the Tom Yum Goong in its traditional form..
..without the avocado:
It seems pretty involved,
But really, it’s a super easy dish to make.
It will impress anyone you cook it for and is keto and Paleo worthy.
It’s gluten-free, and you can make it more lectin free by stripping the tomatoes of their skin and deseeding them. As well as possibly leaving out the smashed chili peppers.
Here’s another beauty shot from above:
For the official printable recipe, you can comment below or contact me and I will provide it!
I believe it can easily be done if you follow along with this picture-recipe blog post though.Print
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy your Tom Yum Goong!