Tom Yum Kai Soup (Thai Chicken Spicy and Sour Soup)

Tom Yum Kai Soup

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 chicken breast, boneless, skinless, cut into 5mm (1/4″) thick slices
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2.5cm (1″) piece of galangal or ginger, peeled and sliced into 5mm (1/4″) thick slices
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2cm (3/4″) pieces
  • 2 makrut lime leaves (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbsps fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsps sambal olek
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 8 button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges or 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 lime, cut in wedges


Place the stock and water in a heavy bottomed pot. Heat until it starts to simmer. Add ginger/galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add fish sauce, sambal olek, and sugar. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

And now for the details…

When I’m feeling under the weather, or feeling chilled and want something to stoke that internal fire to feel warmed up, this soup is immediately what I crave. It’s got the warm comfort of a chicken soup, with the spicy bite from the sambal olek and ginger, and a tart or sour note thanks to the lime juice, lemongrass and tomatoes.

I have a few ingredients in here that I have noted as optional, as they do add to the flavour of the soup, but are not critical. Especially the makrut lime leaves, which can often be a challenge to find in some western markets. While the additional of the lime leaves adds a certain floral note and emphasizes the citrus notes, it is not hypercritical if you have a hard time tracking them down.

Let’s get to cooking.

Before we go anywhere, get all the ingredients ready to go. Wash, slice, cut and mince everything and have it next to you at the stove, because the time between additions to the soup are relatively short, which is great because it means we get to eating that much faster!

A tip for the lemongrass: tap it up and down its length with the dull side of your knife. This will help to release some of the oils to make your soup that much more fragrant.

A tip for the chicken: if cutting it thinly is a challenge, try placing the piece of chicken breast in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. It will not freeze completely, but will chill up enough that it is easier to handle while you are cutting. Because we are cutting it so thin, this extra chill to the chicken will not result in any extended cook time.

We start everything off by adding the broth and water into a pot and setting them to medium-high heat on the stove. Heat until the liquid starts to simmer, then reduce to just above medium heat.

Next, add the lemongrass, ginger and lime leaves. Before adding the lime leaves, give them a light squish between your hands; this will help release the oils and allow them to impart more flavour.

Cover the pot and let this simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce, sambal olek and sugar (if you are using the sugar). And allow everything to simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

Next, we add the chicken and mushrooms. Yes, I know that the dishwasher will likely sanitize the cutting board and I do not need to be so anal retentive about using multiple boards, but I am just too cautious when it comes to cross contamination.

Let the soup come back up to a simmer, and then cover and cook for about 3 minutes.

Our final addition are the tomatoes. Whether you use a large tomatoes and cut it into wedges, or simply slice up some baby tomatoes, it is really about preference and what you have on hand. Add the tomatoes and stir them in, then simmer everything for another 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked and the tomatoes have softened slightly.

Serve immediately with chopped cilantro and green onions and enjoy that heart-warming deliciousness!

Happy eating.

Pork Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Jjigae)

Kimchi Jjigae

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 700g (1.5 lbs) pork belly, cut in slices
  • 300g (2/3 lbs) kimchi, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, shredded
  • 2 Tbsps soy sauce (dark)
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 2 Tbsp gochujang
  • 3 cups chicken or pork broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch green onion, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 package shimeji mushrooms, trimmed
  • 1/2 pkg (170g) medium tofu, sliced
  • butter


Sauté the pork on medium-high heat until browned. Add the chopped kimchi, reserving the kimchi liquid, and stir regularly until kimchi is heated fully. Add the water and broth. Add the soy sauce, mirin, gochujang, and kimchi liquid. Stir and cook until the stew starts to simmer. Stir in the shredded garlic. Add the mushroom and the green onions, stirring to mix. Lay the tofu across the top of the stew, spooning some of the stew over the tofu to coat. Cover the soup and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the mushrooms and tofu are cooked through. Spoon the stew into bowls and drop about 1 tsp of butter on the top of each bowl. Serve with a bowl of white rice.

And now for the details…

I know what you must be thinking… ummm… Emily, I didn’t realize you were Korean…? No, no I am not. And what do I know about authentic Korean cooking? Not much at all, except that what Korean food I have eaten is delicious and I will do what I can to recreate it. Particularly this stew. This stew was love at first bite when I tried it at Ogam Chicken. It has all the things you could hope for in a stew. The flavour is a mouth-watering combination of salty, umami-rich, spicy, and tangy. With the little chunks of pork, kimchi, and tofu, this stew is also quite hearty. Pair it with a bowl of white rice and it is pure magic.

Eating kimchi jjigae in restaurants, you often get it served in a hot stone bowl called a dolsot. I do have a dolsot that I received as a gift. But alas, I still have not used it, as it does not work so well (i.e. at all) on an induction stove. I will need to get myself a hot plate to resolve this issue! Until then, a heavy bottomed pot will need to do the job.

Cooking with new ingredients is always both scary and exciting. There were a number of ingredients in this recipe that I had never used for cooking until I made this stew the first time.

Gochujang, which is a chilli paste, was a brand new ingredient for me the first time I made jjigae. I find it more earthy than spicy, although it definitely does provide some heat. It’s a deep, rich red and has an almost smoky yet sweet quality to it that really deepens the flavour of the dish.

Kimchi itself was something I had eaten on a number occasions, but had never cooked with at home. My favourite is baechu kimchi, which is made from the whole Napa cabbage. Luckily, it is usually the easiest to find in stores as well. Kimchi can be quite different brand-to-brand, and the store I get my ingredients from also does some fresh house-made kimchi as well. They will vary in the level of tartness, saltiness, and spiciness, which will change the way the stew ultimately tastes. Play around with the different kinds to find one you enjoy.

Let’s get to cooking.

Start by preparing your ingredients. Cut the green onions into 1″ pieces and set them aside. Take the kimchi out of its liquid, allowing most of the liquid to drain back into its container (set the liquid aside, we will be using that!), and chop the kimchi roughly to get some bite-sized pieced. Set the kimchi aside. Trim the mushrooms and set them aside. I use shimeji mushrooms because I enjoy them so much, but if you prefer white or brown button mushrooms, simply cut them into quarters or halves, depending on the size of the mushrooms (cut them into 1/8th’s if they are really big). Slice the tofu into 5-6mm (~1/4″) slices and set aside. Lastly, cut the pork belly into small, bite-sized slices.

We start by cooking the pork belly. Many recipes will call to add the pork belly to the broth once it is prepared, but I like cooking the pork first, getting a nice build up of the pork fat as it renders, and caramelizing the meat slightly. Add the pork belly to your pot with the heat set at medium-high. Sauté until the meat has cooked through almost completely and has started to brown. Stir this regularly, as I find the pork belly will try to stick to the bottom of the pot. If there is an large amount of fat pooling in the bottom of the pot, drain some, but keep the majority of the fat in the pot.

Once the pork belly is cooked through, add the kimchi to the pot, stirring regularly until any liquid that remained with the kimchi has cooked off and the kimchi is heated all the way through.

Next we start to add our liquid. Add the broth and the water, stirring while paying particular attention to the bottom of the pot to help stir in any of the caramelized pork that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Then, add the soy sauce, mirin and gochujang. Add a tablespoon or two of the kimchi liquid into the pot and allow everything to heat up until the stew starts to simmer.

Taste test the broth at this point to see if it is meeting your taste preference. Add more kimchi liquid if you want to increase the spiciness, saltiness and tartness of the broth. Now is also the point when you will add the shredded garlic to the stew. Lower the temperature to about medium or medium-low.

Next, add your mushrooms and green onions, and stir them into the broth. Then lay the tofu across the top, and spoon some of the broth over the tofu to coat it. I forgot to buy tofu the first time I made this for photos, so please excuse the, er, temporary costume (i.e. pot) change in this next photo.

Cover the pot an allow the stew to… well… stew… for about 8-10 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the tofu is heated through completely and everything is a nice, bubbly container of deliciousness.

Finally, we eat. Spoon the stew out into bowls, top with about 1 tsp of butter per bowl, and serve on its own or with a small bowl of cooked white rice.

Happy eating.