Eat Right

Spicy soup with an intense flavour

Tom Yam soup is celebrity chef Eric Teo's go-to dish when he has a cold as its sour and spicy broth helps clear the airways.
Tom Yam soup is celebrity chef Eric Teo's go-to dish when he has a cold as its sour and spicy broth helps clear the airways.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ERIC TEO

Thai-style dish is made with nutritious veg and cholesterol-curbing lemongrass

Spicy, sour and fragrant.

These defining characteristics of traditional Thai tom yam soup also make it perfect for days when you are under the weather.

That is the case, at least, for celebrity chef Eric Teo. "To me, this is always one of the soups that stimulate me," he said.

"It is one of my favourite recipes whenever I catch a cold. Its sour and spicy broth helps to increase the movement of nasal mucus, clearing the airways and easing congestion."

With a good soup stock made using chicken leg, the taste of the broth is flavourful and intense.

Many also believe that a bowl of chicken soup helps to ease colds.

Whether you buy that or not, Mr Teo's version of tom yam soup boasts many nourishing ingredients, all the same.

The star ingredient is chicken, which is generally a source of lean and low-fat protein. You may remove the skin before cooking to further reduce the fat content of the dish.

The meat is accompanied by herbs and aromatics, such as lemongrass which, historically, is known for its medicinal properties in Asian cultures. The plant contains antioxidants and anti-microbial compounds, and has been shown to help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels.

And its distinct citrus aroma also gives the dish a refreshing punch.

The generous use of herbs means there is little else you need to do to rev up the taste, while straw mushrooms and eggplant help to provide more texture and bite.

Both are also nutritious vegetables that cook well in soups; they retain most of their flavour and shape even after boiling.

"If prepared correctly, tom yam soup has many health benefits," said Mr Teo, who owns food consultancy firm ET Culinary Arts. "For instance, fresh lime juice may help the skin to look younger."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2015, with the headline 'Spicy soup with an intense flavour'. Print Edition | Subscribe