Quick and easy Thai coconut soup

Makethis spicy, citrusy soup once and you might get hooked!Hot and spicy Tom Yum soup with shrimp or chicken is the perfect thing for the last cool days of early spring.  It’s also tasty and refreshing on a sultry afternoon. I like to make a quick version of this popular Thai soup using prepared Tom Yum paste, boxed chicken stock, and a few other pantry staples. It’s delicious and takes just minutes. It’s called Tom Yum Goong or Tom Yum Kung when it is made with shrimp, and Tom Yum Kai when made with chicken. The version I prefer has a bit of tomato paste, but not all do, so feel free to try it both ways. Drop in a cooked, sliced chicken breast from a BBQ or your own roast chicken, and you’ll have a hearty meal.
Fresh herbs are traditional. But if you don’t have any on hand, make it anyway. I have made this soup from scratch and it is fabulous, but making it with a prepared spice paste is just as good. It makes a tasty healthful treat that is ready in an instant after a long day.
1 heaping tbsp. of Tom Yum Paste (I usually use a brand called Por Kwan sold from Thailand and widely available in Asian shops and better-stocked grocery stores).
1½ tbsp. fish sauce (I use Three Crab brand)
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. sugar or 1 pkg. Stevia in the Raw or 1 tbsp.
3½ cups organic or regular boxed chicken (uses water or fish stock, if you prefer)
1 cup white or brown mushrooms – washed, dried, and sliced
½ pound or 250 grams shrimp, cleaned and shelled (retain the shells, if you have them) or for chicken soup ¾ cup of cooked diced chicken
2 to 3 washed spring onions or scallions, sliced diagonally into small pieces about ¼ inch or 6.5 mm.
1 stalk crushed lemongrass (or juice from 1 lime)
1 tbsp. chopped herbs, such as fresh basil or cilantro
Juice from half a lime
1 tsp. tamarind concentrate, optional
Sauté the Tom Yam paste briefly in small amount (1 tsp.) of oil, add the shrimp shells and stock, and simmer for two to three minutes. The shells add a more intense flavour to the soup. Add the tomato paste, lime juice and sweetener. Remove the shells from the stock with a slotted spoon.
Add the mushrooms and the shrimp and simmer for five minutes.
If desired, add lemongrass, green onion, and herbs.
This soup can be made with chicken, too. Just add ¾ of a cup of diced chicken and follow the same directions.
For a heartier dish add a scoop of Jasmine rice to the hot soup.
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