Tom Yum Kung, Thai Chili Pepper and Thailand on Spice & Recipe

Sunday meal with a bowl of Thailand’s tom yum soup and a story of a hobby born out of desperation.

Who brought chili peppers to Thailand from South America is debatable, however, all agree that Thai chili peppers are unique in shape and powerful in taste.

Most of 79 varieties are less than two inches in length and grow upward, hence the name of one of the most popular variety prik chee fah or chili pepper pointing to the sky. 15 times spicier than jalapeños but milder than habanero peppers, use gloves and don’t rub your eyes when cooking with Thai pepper, and have a glass of milk when overeating it. A key ingredient in salads and tom yums, chili pepper is a staple of Thai cuisine.

Studies brought Hattaya (Amm) Nagadatta and Mink Cushman to America, food brought them together.

Amm, who landed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1993, picked up cooking out of desperation. She wasn’t able to find food that was cooked the way she wanted it, at that time there were only a couple of Thai restaurants in town. When Mink arrived in the area in 1999, history repeated itself. She didn’t need to cook in Bangkok, but learned how to here. Today, Amm’s house is the go-to place when Thais of Omaha miss homecooked food, and Mink’s website is the go-to website if you would like to cook Thai food.

Enjoy this Sunday meal and if you decide to try this recipe, please send us photos at [email protected]. We will feature them in the program.

Spice & Recipe is a weekly show that you can watch locally in Omaha, Nebraska on KPAO-TV, Cox 22 or Century Link 89, and worldwide on the NAM YouTube channel or this website.


Serving size:  4 people


  • 32 oz. seafood stock
  • 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Nam Prik Pao (Thai chili paste)
  • 3 cups shrimp
  • 8 oz. oyster mushrooms, quartered, or white button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 large tomato, quartered
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, cut into 2-3 inches
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 3 slices of galangal (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • the juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • cilantro, chopped
  • 4 Thai fresh chilies, smashed (or to taste for a milder or spicier soup)
  • 4 dry Thai chilies for color

In a deep pot over medium heat, add salt and fish sauce to seafood stock, mix well, and then add lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, tomato, and galangal. Bring to a boil. Add mushrooms and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Add nam prik pao (Thai chili paste). Stir well until blended. Add shrimp and simmer over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp turns pink. Do not overcook shrimp. Once they are cooked, turn off the heat. Cooking time about 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, add smashed fresh chilies, dry chilies, evaporated milk, lime juice and fresh cilantro to the mix. When eating, scoop out galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, do not eat them. The soup should taste salty, a little sweet and sour. Use less or no chili for little to no spicy soup. Shrimp can be replaced with chicken or fish. When using chicken, add it to the mix before mushrooms and let it boil until cooked. Enjoy!

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March 28, 2021

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