Tom Yum Seafood Soup with Kaffir Lime

| December 5, 2010 | 0 Comments

As I was growing up in Thailand, kaffir limes were a common sight. Not so much here in the U.S. So imagine my surprise when I get a call from Charles, the excitement in his voice palpable, extolling that our little organic food store in Salem, Lifesource Foods, had kaffir limes and did I want any? Are you kidding? Yes!

My family has gone to great lengths to make sure that wherever we’ve lived—Texas, Maryland, Oregon—we’ve always had a kaffir lime plant. Usually, Mom has to scour her friends in Houston and bring a live plant back on the plane during one of her annual visits there. Sometimes, we beg to have plants sent to us via FedEx.

But none of our kaffir lime plants have ever bloomed and fruited. Mom says only the females have fruit. We’ve been stuck with guys, which have thorns on their stems. But love them we do. Our current kaffir lime plant is about 6 feet tall and wintering under grow lights next to a portable heater in the garage. It doesn’t matter that our boys never fruit, you see. That’s because their double-lobed leaves are valuable in Thai cooking. Cut into slivers, or dropped whole into soups, they release an incredibly fresh citrus aroma, clean and green. Their aroma never ceases to remind me of Thailand. In Thailand, almost every family will have a kaffir lime plant.

Kaffir limes are prized in Thai cooking.

Kaffir lime leaves impart a wonderfully bright green, clean, citrus aroma and flavor.

The fruit doesn’t contain much juice, but in Thai cooking, the rind and the entire fruit are used to impart their bright, clean, citrus flavor and aroma. It won’t actually make a dish sour; you’d need to add regular lime juice for that.

The most common dishes that use kaffir lime rind or leaves are Tom Yum soup and Tom Kha soup.

Here’s a seafood rendition of Tom Yum that makes a wonderful winter soup. If you’ve got a cold, this will warm you up and clear your chest.

Tom Yum seafood soup, infused with aroma of kaffir limes, is a great winter warmer.

Tom Yum Seafood Soup with Kaffir Lime


Serves 4

  • 8 cups (1.8 l.) water
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 2 kaffir limes (optional), sliced in half
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) chili paste with soya bean oil (sold in Asian food stores; our favorite brand is Pantai)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) fish sauce
  • 1 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced into chunks
  • 8-10 white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 large firm white fish fillet (red snapper, basa, etc.), cut into large chunks
  • 8 medium-large shrimp, peeled, de-veined and rinsed (shells set aside)


  1. In a large saucepan, bring water to boil.
  2. Tie shrimp shells in cheesecloth and add to water and simmer for 20 minutes. Then discard shells.
  3. Add lime juice, kaffir limes, kaffir lime leaves, chili paste, fish sauce, stirring to completely dissolve chili paste, then lower heat to a simmer.
  4. Add zucchini or squash and mushrooms and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add fish and shrimp and simmer for another 3 minutes and serve hot.


— Vic

Tags: , , ,

Category: Soup, Thai

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Leave a Reply