I always ordered this dish when eating out at the Thai Pavilion restaurant in Astoria, Queens, my favorite Thai place when we lived in New York. There they called it Potek. It was this clear aromatic and spicy broth with loads of fish and shellfish. After moving to San Francisco, I learned to make it myself because I got tired of asking at restaurants whether they could accommodate my needs by making the soup with vegetable broth or just plain water. Plus I like making Thai food.
The soup can be like Tom Yum on steroids. Beyond shrimp, potek is packed with other types of seafood, such as fish, clams, mussels, sea scallops, crab claws or lobster. Heaven! You can use the seafood of your choice, like I did here: this time, just salmon and clams.
7½ cups water
2 stalks lemon grass, smashed with a cleaver
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 inch piece of galangal root, cut into chunks
½ cup cilantro, chopped
10 mint leaves
10 Thai basil leaves
½ Thai red chili pepper cut in thin rounds
1 tsp garlic chili pepper
½ tsp sugar
7 tbsp fish sauce
3 small individual pieces of sushi grade king salmon
1 lb clams
1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
Bring water to a boil then add lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal root. Simmer for about 10 minutes so flavors meld. Add garlic chili paste, sugar, salt and fish sauce. Adjust flavor with more fish sauce, salt or chili sauce for spicier results. Add clams and cook for a couple of minutes or until they begin to open, add mushroom followed by the salmon. Remove from heat. Let it poach in the broth. Toss in Thai basil, red chili, mint and cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a side of Thai Jasmine rice.