Tom Yam Soup with Mackerel (or frogs!)

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Happy Lunar New Year everyone!  And although it is the Year of the Snake, I’m posting something with frogs- if you so dare!_MG_1286Okay so I made this soup with mackerel, a perfectly normal fish, when I made this at home.. however- I did partake in jungle frog Tom Yam soup when I went on a trek in the Northern Thailand jungle.IMG_1688I shared some of these photos already, but I didn’t really go into detail. (Maybe that’s best for some people!)

IMG_1687Here is the picture of the breakfast/brunch we had while camping/trekking in Pai, Northern Thailand. It was really cool that all the food we were served was in dishes cut from bamboo by our machete-wielding trek guide. Here is sticky rice, chicken curry and tom yam soup with frogs, all cooked over the campfire.

IMG_1686I was really eager to try it! And although eating a whole frog (as opposed to just legs) was kinda freaky, I ate three so they weren’t so awful I guess.

IMG_1678Here is a picture of the freshly killed and caught frogs.

IMG_1682And here, being skewered (on cut from bamboo sticks).

IMG_1683And finally, barbecued on the fire before being added to the Tom Yam soup.

Quite the process.

However, today I’m not expecting you to go out to your backyard stream, catch yourself some frogs, skewer them, and then add them to this soup recipe. (If you do this, I applaud you). Instead, I’m going to offer my version with mackerel. If you don’t have mackerel- you can use chicken, shrimp, tofu.. whatever!


_MG_1288This is a really delicious soup, the lime flavour is just awesome! It’s not a flavour that I’m used to in soups, so its really surprising and an excellent change from more traditional chicken noodle type dishes.

The ingredients may be hard to find, unfortunately. But just do your best, because its really such a great soup!

I took a one day Thai Cooking Class at the Thai Cookery school in Chiang Mai, and we made this recipe, but using prawns. Here are some of my pictures from the class:

_MG_1115The ingredients we used.

_MG_1116The finished product

_MG_1117And another. Note the copious amounts of fresh herbs! Sigh. Unfortunately, I have not had luck finding these here in Korea, at this time of year. I’ve included a photograph of the recipe from class- note that it serves only 1-2, so if you use it, make sure to adjust your batch size!

Okay, so on with the recipe how about?


Tom Yam Soup with Mackerel 


10 mackerel fish fillets (or protein of choice)
1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced into 3cm long pieces
2 small onions, chopped
2 knobs of galangal, sliced in thick slivers
5 cups mushrooms, pulled apart
2 cups whole, canned tomatoes, lightly chopped, drained (you can use fresh, but I had canned ones on hand, and I reserved the juice for another use)
10 kaffir lime leaves
3 hot chilli peppers, chopped (more if you can handle it!)
2 limes, juiced and zested (zesting is optional, but I liked the extra zing!)
1/4 c fish sauce
3 packets of stevia (or sweetener of choice)
1 tbsp thai chilli paste
1/2 tbsp shrimp paste
1 tsp salt
15-20 cups of water
1 cup of fresh parsley, lightly chopped (use fresh thai parsley, coriander and cilantro if you have access to them)


1. Begin by chopping and prepping your ingredients.
2. Put water in large soup pot and heat until boiling. Add onions, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, stevia, chill paste, shrimp paste and allow to simmer until fragrant.
3. Add mackerel, mushrooms and tomatoes and cook until done.
4. Add fish sauce, stevia, salt, chilli peppers, and lime juice and zest.
5. Finally add fresh herbs before serving.

Serves 10-12


Assemble your ingredients No I did not bring this from Thailand... Mackerel fillets Big soup pot! Lemongrass Galangal Onion Thai Chili paste Shrimp paste Shrimp paste Simmer in water until fragrant Mushrooms After, add mushrooms Tomatoes Kaffir lime leaves Chilli pepper Thai Fish sauce Limes and stevia Lime peel



_MG_1288I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have! And good luck finding ingredients! I will definitely be on the hunt now- but if anyone out there finds things like Kaffir Lime leaf, etc here in Korea- please comment!

Have a wonderful Lunar New Year! May there be many.. uh snakes in your life- or frogs in your soup :)


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