Dtom yam het (hot & sour soup with mushrooms)

Dtom yam is Thailand’s most famous soup, famous for its spicy sourness that fits perfectly with the humid climate. While I lived in Thailand I ate dtom yam het at least once a week at a little open-air restaurant that sold only dtom yam, in about 20 different varieties (including a sour red curry variety, which is to die for… but which I struggle to replicate without access to authentic Thai curry pastes and their essential ingredients in my corner of the world).

Most people probably know this as a seafood dish – dtom yam goong, made with prawns (goong). My version is the Thai vegetarian alternative, which is just as authentic and almost as common, and it uses mushrooms (het) in place of seafood. You could choose to add other vegetables to it, but it’s best not to overload it as the secret to a great dtom yam is its simplicity, and its emphasis on spiciness and sourness.

Here’s how to whip up a simple yet delicious dtom yam het that’ll be sure to make your mouth water….

Flavour: Spicy & sour

Serves: 4 as a light main meal, or 6-8 as a starter

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups vegetable stock (plain water is also fine, but stock will add greater depth of flavour)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves, halved
  • 2cm cube ginger, sliced
  • 4cm cube galangal, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 4 fresh bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp/puree
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 200g mushrooms of your choice
    • Amateur tip: I love oyster mushrooms for this dish, but also use shimeji mushrooms or straw mushrooms, and the Thai het khon mushrooms are great if you can find them
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • small bunch Thai basil, leaves only (if you can’t find Thai basil, Italian basil will do, but it won’t give you the same flavour)

Directions:

  1. Bring your stock or water to the boil in a large pot over a high heat, and chuck in your lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, galangal, and garlic – reduce to a simmer once it’s reached boiling point
  2. Simmer for about 10 minutes to infuse your stock with all the lovely flavours you’ve added
  3. Now, this is the point where I part ways with the Thai way (it may look pretty, but it’s hard to eat the soup when you have to navigate all those bits of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf, etc.) – strain your stock through a sieve into another large pot to catch all the bits n pieces that gave you good depth of flavour but you wouldn’t want to bite down on while eating
  4. Bring your pot of freshly strained stock to a simmer, and toss in your onions, chillies, sugar and tamarind pulp
  5. After about 5 minutes of simmering, toss in your mushrooms
  6. After another 5 minutes of simmering, toss in your tomatoes, soy sauce, and lime juice
  7. After 2 more minutes of simmering, take off the heat and chuck in your Thai basil – you’re now ready to serve

Serve your dtom yam het right away with either jasmine rice or sticky rice, and preferably a crisp, cool beer to wash down the spices! 🙂

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