Tom yum pla, a healthy Thai fish soup, is a refreshing bowl of pure deliciousness. Imagine fresh fish in a tamarind-infused broth, mingled with fresh herbs and spices like galangal and kaffir lime leaves. It's easy to make, a touch sour, a hint of spice, and full of classic tom yum soup flavors.
Tom yum pla is a traditional Thai fish soup, beloved for its blend of tender fish, herbs, and spices. This soup is a staple in Thai cuisine, offering a mix of sour and spicy flavors, and often prepared with lemongrass, galangal, and makrut lime leaves.
Tom pla recipe
In this recipe, we will be making tom pa, which is a lighter version of the tom yum pla soup. It's delicious in its own way, and a total family favorite!
It's still got all those delicious flavors and aromas, yet it's a bit milder for the kiddos. This soup is like the comfort food of Thai cuisine, and it's a staple in Isan, Northeastern Thailand.
Hey, if you're all about a hot sour soup, just add a squeeze of lime or more tamarind paste. Feel free to toss in some Thai chilies to turn up the heat, or fry dried chilies to add a smoky flavor and spice.
Stir in some of my homemade tom yum paste for extra tom yum flavor!
This Thai fish recipe is so simple and easy. It's everything you're looking for in a Thai soup, made right in your kitchen.
Authentic recipe: This is our family recipe for tom pla. We often make soup when we crave something warm and comfortable during the colder winter mornings.
Family-friendly: Most tom yum soup recipes are too spicy for kids, but this one is light and mild. You can easily add extra spice by adding dried chilies.
Quick and easy: This recipe is perfect for any home cook, with easy and straightforward steps.
Versatile: You can choose a variety of fish options and flavor the soup to your taste.
Healthy: This Thai fish soup is packed with nutritious herbs and spices, it's a soup that's as good for you as it tastes.
Best fish for Thai fish soup
Tum yum pla is incredibly versatile, especially with the choice of fish. I went for tilapia, it's cheap and readily available at food markets in Southeast Asia. It's mild, flaky, and soaks up all the tom yum flavors like a dream.
For the best flavor in your soup, I suggest using a whole fish – head, bones, and all. These parts add an incredible depth to the fish broth. Alternatively, you can use fish fillet.
By the way, if you like cooking with fish fillet, you'll love this authentic Thai red curry fish!
The best fish for fish soup:
In Thailand, we can get cleaned whole fish at street markets. I give the fish another quick rinse before cooking to make sure there's no fishy smell, keeping the aromas of your soup perfect.
For the exact measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post.
Fish - I used a whole tilapia, feel free to use your favorite type of fish.
Fish sauce - A key ingredient in Thai cuisine, adding umami and a salty depth to our dishes. Fish sauce can be sourced at Asian grocery stores or markets.
MSG - A type of flavor enhancer commonly used in Isan cuisine to uplift the flavors.
Salt - A pinch of salt enhances the natural flavors of the other ingredients.
Tomatoes, green onions, cilantro - My choice of fresh herbs and vegetables, feel free to customize with your favorite soup vegetables like mushrooms and baby corn.
Kaffir lime leaves - Also known as makrut lime leaves, these add an intense citrus fragrance.
Fresh tamarind - Gives the soup its distinct tangy notes. Essential in the tom yum flavor and for balancing the flavors in the soup. You can get fresh tamarind at Asian markets or supermarkets.
Galangal root - Adds a sharp, citrusy spice. Galangal is a family of ginger and essential for the authentic Thai flavor.
Lemongrass - The notes of lemongrass are key for the soup's fragrance, infusing the broth with a bright flavor.
Shallots - Adds a subtle, natural sweetness and a hint of sharpness, enhancing the overall flavors of the soup.
Garlic - An essential in Thai cooking, garlic adds aroma and a pungent note.
Water - The base of the soup that carries all these wonderful flavors.
1. Clean fish: Rinse the fish under cold water and scrub with salt and flour to eliminate any fishy smells. Remove scales and guts, then pat dry and cut into large chunks for your soup.
2. Spices and seasonings: Place a pot over medium heat and add your water. Add galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, garlic, and fresh tamarind. Then, add MSG, fish sauce, and salt. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add vegetables and fish: Add fish pieces and tomatoes. Let the soup simmer for approx 3 minutes.
4. Fresh herbs: Turn off heat and stir in green onions, and cilantro. Serve immediately.