Broken fish trap

tom” yam

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

Think rockpool/shrimper’s net here - wayward bits of seafood. Chuck in stuff like clams, mussels, a prawn or crab claw, and nuggets of fish with the prawns, but cook for longer if necessary: gulf-inspired and fisherman’s-potlike, yet effortlessly elegant. Thais sometimes use smoked fish or mackerel to make a richer soup. One for dieters but equally fantastic for those who are not wasting time on such things.


  • 1 small sea bream or other white fish, filleted, boned (keep the bones) and broken into pieces
  • 2 sticks lemongrass, trimmed and smashed open
  • 4 cm piece fresh galangal or root ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar or caster sugar
  • 4 birdseye chillies, split
  • 300 g raw shell-on prawns
  • handful of basil, coriander or chopped garlic chives


Simmer the fish bones in 1.5 litres of water, along with the smashed lemongrass, galangal and half the lime leaves for about 20 minutes, then sieve into a clean pan, discarding all the bits. Stir in half the fish sauce, half the lime juice, half the sugar and half the chillies, and leave to bubble for a couple of minutes. Add the prawns and the fish pieces and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes or so, until the fish is cooked. Give it a taste and add more flavourings until it’s blended in heat and sourness to your liking. Remove and discard the lemongrass and spent lime leaves. Stir in the remaining fresh kaffir lime leaves, remove from the heat and add the remaining lime juice. Divide between bowls and top with leaves. Again, toasted shrimp paste mashed with chilli can be added at the table.