Thai Odyssey Part 4 – Mussel and Ginger Soup and Squid Salad

Posted By Stephen

Given the success of last time’s soup and salad combination, we decided to give it another try. Normally on Sundays we have some sort of roast and Thai Monday happens on… Monday. But as I’m out tomorrow evening, we decided to have Thai Sunday instead.


This time, the salad was squid salad, aka yam pla meuk. As with many Thai salads, a “squid salad” contains mostly just squid, and the other ingredients are just there to complement the squid and are secondary to the squid itself. Often Western salads contain many different leaves and other vegetables, meaning any meat or fish in it is an addition to it rather than the main ingredient. Not so with this salad.

We had cooked squid before in a Vietnamese recipe and it hadn’t been a huge success, so we were a bit concerned because this recipe from David Thompson’s “Thai Food” also required poaching the squid. This recipe looked more promising though.

We started by poaching the squid briefly until it was just cooked and still soft. We then mixed it with 3 red shallots, 2 lime leaves, a stalk of lemongrass, some mint leaves and some coriander leaves. Then we immediately dressed it with a dressing made from 2 birds eye chillies, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lime juice and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and tossed it to coat all the ingredients.

This worked well; the crisp lemongrass and shallots complemented the soft squid well and the dressing held it together nicely.


Soup was mussel and ginger soup, aka tom som hoi malaeng puu. We started with a paste from coriander root, salt, garlic, shallots, ginger, shrimp paste and white peppercorns. We fried the paste and then added palm sugar, tamarind water and fish sauce. Then added chicken stock and grated ginger. Once it reached the boil, we added the mussels and cooked until they were all open. After that, more ginger and spring onions before serving it up with a sprinkle of coriander leaves and ground white pepper.

According to the recipe, in the northern regions, people often use krachai instead of ginger. As we had quite a lot left over from our jungle curry, we decided to use some in the soup. We put some into the paste instead of the ginger, but then we needed half a cup of grated krachai / ginger to put into the soup and I really didn’t fancy peeling and grating that much krachai. So ginger it was.

The soup had promise, but unfortunately had a rather bitter taste. Probably due to the fact that I’d been rather inattentive while frying the paste and had burnt it a bit. Or due to our strange half krachai, half ginger combination. So the squid was a success but not the soup; we could try it again and be more careful with the paste in case it was that, but there are loads of other interesting things to try that it’ll be a while before we get back to it. Or maybe it was just that having Thai Monday on a Sunday caused cosmic culinary disturbances 🙂

Mar 16th, 2008

3 Comments to 'Thai Odyssey Part 4 – Mussel and Ginger Soup and Squid Salad'

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  1. Pixie said,

    This sounds wonderful. The squid looks especially good; sorry the soup didn’t turn out as expected so hope you will one day try it again!

  2. Stephen said,

    Thanks Pixie! I thought the soup looked rather good (I usually think mussels look good in dishes) but a pity about the taste.

    Something that I forgot to point out while writing the post was that that soup was the first Thai dish we’ve cooked that didn’t contain any chilli. It had some heat in it from the white peppercorns, which were quite fragrant but different to chilli.

  3. Ros said,

    It sounds like you have mastered squid now, but in case you have trouble with it again,one thing I’ve found helps the texture immensely is marinating in citrus juice- even if only briefly. Squid pieces seem to be almost impossible to overcook if you give them a brief soak in lemon, lime or orange juice.

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