Tom-Yum Soup at Bangkok Thai Gardens in Ottawa
The Bangkok Thai Gardens restaurant is in Ottawa’s Byward market. There are at least four Thai restaurants in the market area of about 12 city blocks, with my favorite being just a hundred yards or so down the street. I like this particular establishment well enough. It is comfortable and the service is excellent, but I have always found their food to be a bit less exciting than at some of the other places.
Tom Yum Soup is a classic of Thai cuisine and appears on virtually every Thai restaurant menu in the West. The name ‘Tom Yum’, or ‘Tom Yam’, roughly translates as a ‘Mixed Boil’ and the basic form is a spicy hot and sour soup made with a range of different ingredients, with Pork and Shrimp being most popular.
The Tom-Yum Soup at Bangkok Thai appeared on the menu as ‘Tom Yum Kung’, and was described as being a ‘hot and sour soup with shrimp, lemongrass, galanga and mushrooms’. The ‘Kung’ part of the name indicates that this is a Shrimp Tom Yum, but on other menus, you will see it spelled ‘Goong’, as in ‘Tom Yam Goong’.
The aromatics in a typical Tom Yum soup will generally include the Lemongrass and Galanga mention in in the menu description above, but the basic form also includes Chili and other spices, with Kaffir Lime and Lime juice to provide the citrusy sourness. Most restaurants these days will actually uses a premade flavor paste along the lines of the Jack Hua Sour Shrimp Paste I previously reviewed. If you follow that link, you will be able to see a very simple Tom Yum Goong I made myself.
When the Bangkok Thai soup arrived at the table, it was immediately visually appealing and I noted that it contained Baby Corn in addition to the Shrimp and Mushrooms promised on the menu. Unfortunately, despite the prettiness of the soup, it fell short of my expectations. It was not at all sour, only mildly hot (more from pepper than chili), and, though it was rather heavy with galanga, I couldn’t detect any lemongrass at all.
I rather think that the Bangkok Thai Gardens, which has been in the market for the twenty or so years that I have been visiting Ottawa, has modified its recipes somewhat in order to appeal more to western tastes. This probably would have been a good strategy several decades ago but, these days, places like this have to compete with other restaurants who are serving much more complex and exciting dishes to an increasingly more appreciative clientele. I can’t be too critical of the overall quality of the food at Bangkok Thai, but, unless they follow the modern trend, I think they may get lost in the dust.