Most of my friends know my extreme reluctance to go out to eat at Thai restaurants in the US. They just never measure up to Thai food back in Thailand, and I always get disappointed. They skimp on the herbs and spices in some dishes (due to cost and/or lack of availability); oversweeten dishes to pander to the Bay Area farang palate; and put in a lot of filler vegetables like onion and bell peppers and carrots that normally they won’t use in Thailand.
So imagine my surprise, when not once, but twice, the tom yum goong I ordered in restaurants in Thailand came with tomatoes. Tomatoes!? In som-tum, yes. In tom yum goong, no.
The second time, I was dining with a group of old Thai friends. “Did tom yum goong always have tomatoes before, and I just didn’t remember?” I asked, thinking I was having a really senior moment.
“No, but nowadays, some restaurants will serve it with tomatoes, to make it more ‘fancy’, or ‘fusiony, or ‘farangy’.” one of my friends joked.
While tom yum goong does have sweet and sour notes (along with salty and chili hot), that tomatoes also have; and both have tones of orange-red, it’s just weird to have tomatoes in my tom yum goong.