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Thanks for the excellent post and the background on Thai vegetarianism.

Vegetarian Tom Yum soup can be amazing, even if not fully 'authentic.' I have had great success with a recipe from Thai Vegetarian Cooking by Vatcharin Bhumichitr. The first step is to make a paste of roasted chili, shallot, garlic and other items. This part takes a while (over 1 hour), but results in a paste with wonderful complexity. One batch of paste is enough for many pots of soup, and appears to have a long refrigerator life (many months so far, and still OK).

The recipe above says that lime leaves are optional, but once you try a Tom Yum with lime leaves, you'll never go back. The aroma they give the soup is amazing. Makrut lime leaves (a.k.a. kaffir, Citrus hystrix) can be found in the produce or freezer section of some Asian markets. They can be stored in the freezer for quite a while. Dried leaves probably don't have the same aromatic 'punch' of fresh or frozen.

In Bangkok, the food court on the upper level of the MBK shopping center has a stall (#8) with vegetarian tom yum (they were out the day I visited, so I don't know if it is any good). The world-famous Chatachuk market has a vegetarian food pavillion on weekends. More veg restaurant info on Bangkok from Happy Cow.


You can buy kaffir lime leaves, fresh, sometimes at the SF saturday ferry building market, the lady right at the end, facing the Embarcadero, towards Taylors A R. They do smell amazing though I havent tried cooking with them.
this soup sounds mouth watering and, erhmm, I will just pretend I know all about World Vegetarian Month, of course!
Thanks for joining in!


A list of markets with Thai ingredients in the Bay Area and a few other regions can be found at Adventures in Thai Cooking & Travel - Market Pages. I imagine that there are many other websites which list markets with Thai ingredients in other cities, but don't know their URLs.


Lovely photo, great post. The northeastern version you mention would be found in Isaan, and one reason it's more "rustic" is that instead of nam pla it incorporates pla raa, a sort of unfiltered, super-fermented fish sauce made with ground rice that is an acquired taste for some. Salmon would never be used -- it's not found in Isaan.

Though there are some Thai vegetarians (and Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao, etc. vegetarians) who eschew garlic, chilies, etc., it's not the rule. In fact, the spiciest laab (chopped meat -- or, in this case, tofu -- "salad") I ever tasted in Bangkok was served at a vegetarian restaurant. It was so packed with chilies I swear smoke came out of my ears!


thai flavours are ideally suited to vegan cookery - ingenious choice of recipe! and gorgeous picture too...

Dr. Biggles

Eeek! October is Vegetarian month ?!? I din't know, dang. I got a 4 lb chuck steak in my fridge, I'll start tomorrow.


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