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Something is happening here, and if you had any loved ones residing in Beijing, you may have felt this.  Perhaps from the shaken jitters that come through their voices, perhaps even traceable within their text messages… the emotions, raw and rampant, running uncontainably even from the choices of their emojis on Instagram.  Because over here, since about 3 days ago, something big is happening.  The most freakishunfathomable… borderline-scary natural phenomenon is rioting through the very air we breath, and the very reality we see, and frankly, it’s freaking everybody out here.  Emerging from the darkness, the elderly are moving cautiously and slowly out of the shadows of their dwellings, looking up, teary in disbelief.  The children, curious and enthusiastic, holding their hands out into the rare glistens and ask, Mommy, what is this?

What it is, is that for the past 3 consecutive days, the historically soupy and oppressively smoggy sky of Beijing, has been, impossibly blue.

I’m not talking about the-government-patting-themselves-on-the-back or the this-should-be-harmless-enough-to-leave-my-house-without-my-gas-mask kind of greyish relative blue.  I’m talking about… the Swissland-kind of blue, the 3D clouds-kind of blue, the mystical, unicorn-kind of blue that the Chinese has only seen or heard in movies or from the tales of strange, faraway travellers.  And maybe, it’s no big deal to you, but in Beijing, it’s nothing short of a miracle, like Moses parting the Red Sea and finding a 20 dollar-bill on the sea-floor while crossing.  Which is, literally, impossible.  As pathetic and outrageously sad this may sound, in a day like this, we almost owe it to ourselves to go outside and do something as mundanely rare as… having a fucking picnic.


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And if that wasn’t pathetic and sad enough to hear, let me just tell you something else, that I actually made and photographed this soup – possibly the best soup I’ve ever made period – all the way back on Thursday.  The summer version of Thailand’s spicy and sour tom yum goong soup that will smack all your dulled senses wide awake with its distinctive lemony herbs, spiciness and tartness of red chilis and tomatoes, the emboldened depth from blended and drizzled shrimp oil, and the creaminess of coconut milk.  It was so good, that I felt like my mouth has taken a beach vacation down in the Southeast, that I could almost hear the sound of turquoise waves massaging my taste-buds, that I almost couldn’t wait another minute to tell you all about it.  But I stopped myself.  I stopped myself because I wanted to make it again for this picnic, to photograph it under all that impossible sun lights, to bath in it again on this pleasure that comes as rare as a golden panda that speaks English.  Because did I mention…

It’s that kind of blue.

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Serving Size: 4


  • 16~17 oz (450~500 grams) medium head/shell-on shrimps
  • 2/3 cup (145 grams) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 small handful of fresh mint leaves, torn into small pcs
  • 4~5 kaffir lime leaves, torn into small pcs
  • 1/2 tsp Thai shrimp paste, or 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) water
  • 3/4 cup (165 grams) coconut milk, plus more to drizzle
  • 2 cans (800 grams) peeled whole tomatoes
  • 5~6 (135 grams) white parts of the lemongrass stalks, cut into small chunks
  • 1 1/2" (40 grams) galangal, cut into small chunks
  • 10~11 (4 grams) kaffir lime leaves, torn into small pcs
  • 3 small red chillis, diced
  • 1 tbsp (15 grams) + 2 (30 grams) tbsp fish sauce, plus more to adjust
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) lime juice
  • 4 small Asian shallots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/4 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. TO MAKE SHRIMP OIL: Peel the shrimps and set aside the meats. Use a scissor to cut the heads and shells into as small of a pieces as you can, then combine with olive oil, chili flakes, fresh mint leaves, kaffir lime leaves and shrimp paste in a pot. Set over medium heat, breaking up the shrimp paste with a wooden spoon and cook for 9~10 min until the shells are almost browned, and that there are browned bits forming on the sides/bottom of the pot. Add the water, scraping down the browned bits as thoroughly as you can so they can melt into the water, and cook for another 2 min to reduce. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing down the solids to extract as much liquid as you can, then discard the solid. Set the shrimp oil aside.
  2. Devein the shrimps and slice them in half length-wise. Add 1 tbsp of shrimp oil to a skillet, then cook the shrimps over medium heat just until they turn opaque. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside in the fridge.
  3. TO MAKE THE GAZPACHO: In a blender, combine coconut milk, 1/2 can (200 grams) of peeled tomato (reserve the rest), lemongrass stalks, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, red chilis and 1 tbsp of fish sauce. Blend for 2~3 min until the mixture is completely obliterated. Strain the mixture through a very fine sieve or cheese clothe. If you're using a fine sieve, press on the solids until they feel relatively dry, then squeeze with your hands in small batches to extract as much liquid out as possible (you'd be surprise how much more liquid you can get). If you're using cheese clothe, just squeeze on the entire thing all together. You should be able to get about 1 1/2 cup of liquid.
  4. Rinse the blender but no need to wash. Add the extracted liquid back to the blender, along with the remaining 1 1/2 can (600 grams) peeled tomatoes, lime juice, small Asian shallots, 2 tbsp of fish sauce, light brown sugar and freshly ground black pepper. Run the blender for 1~2 min until smoothly pureed, *then drizzle in 1/4 cup of shrimp oil while running. Adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce if needed, then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours to overnight (this is also important for the flavours to weld together). Blend it again briefly or whisk vigorously before serving.
  5. Serve with a generously dousing of more shrimp oil and coconut milk, torn fresh mint leaves, freshly ground black pepper, and the cooked/chilled shrimps.

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  • Jolly

    June 14, 2015 at 1:36 AM Reply

    I just love your writing style and got caught in your story about that unbelievably blue sky! Almost forgot about your recipe – but how could I…? In the end there are just those lovely and really beautiful pictures, which made me drool…

    Thank you for yet another great recipe! Enjoy the sky!

    Jolly (from Germany)

  • Jackie Liang

    June 14, 2015 at 1:45 AM Reply

    Bravo!!!!! Another great success! Well done. You, badass rock star.

  • Ursula @

    June 14, 2015 at 1:45 AM Reply

    Congrats on the blue sky ;-) Hope it’s still clear in Beijing!

  • tunie

    June 14, 2015 at 3:08 AM Reply

    Now that’s the way to celebrate a blue sky! I’ve never heard of a shrimp style spicy gazpacho and it sounds amazing! Thanks!

  • Anne

    June 14, 2015 at 4:19 AM Reply

    OMG THE SKY IS BLUE!!! I can’t believe it…
    And this soup… I think the soup made the sky blue. Because it takes a miracle and this soup is magical. At least, it looks magical!

  • Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous)

    June 14, 2015 at 5:29 AM Reply

    this sounds amazing. because the only way to fight summer heat is with chili heat, right? here’s to many more gazpacho-filled pure blue days.

  • JeffT

    June 14, 2015 at 7:58 AM Reply

    You need to get your own tv show on one of the food channels i swear to god missy…

  • Laurie

    June 14, 2015 at 4:07 PM Reply

    Mandy! – You makin’ me laugh and you makin’ me cry!!!!!!
    Tom Yum – one of my favorites soups, ever! Your version sounds lovely. Kaffir lime leaves are the hardest for me to get, even in the gourmet grocery stores. I guess I can try some lime zest, instead. Head on shrimp are pretty much impossible to get, but I have so many shrimp shells that I think I can make a really good stock.
    Rock on, Mandy. Kisses for Dumpling and Shrimpy! (and Jason, of course)!

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      June 15, 2015 at 3:24 AM Reply

      Laurie, kafir lime leaf has such unique flavours that can’t really be substituted. Lime zest will lack it’s aroma I think. Kafir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal freezes super well, so if you see it next time or on a travel, stock them up in the freezer!

      • Laurie

        June 16, 2015 at 4:12 AM Reply

        I always have galangal in the freezer but never thought about freezing lemongrass. I hate to discover a sad looking stalk in the fridge. I will definitely stock up on kaffir lime leaves next time I find them. I might even request that Wegman’s start to carry them. Sometimes stores will do that.
        Congrats on your winning the Saveur award! It is nice to be recognized for your hard work. We know you do it because you love it but a pat on the back is always nice! Remember, we are patting you all of the time!

        • mandy@ladyandpups

          June 16, 2015 at 12:13 PM Reply

          frozen lemongrass is good for grounding (into curry paste or etc), but not good for stir-fry.

      • Ursula @

        June 16, 2015 at 4:48 AM Reply

        I’ve tried freezing lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal (all fresh and as a whole). The kaffir leaves and galangal seemd fine when I used them, but the lemongrass stalks were just sad (soft & mushy). I thawed it in the fridge overnight, could be that this was the problem. Mandy, do you usually cut the lemongrass before freezing? Thanks!

        • mandy@ladyandpups

          June 16, 2015 at 12:12 PM Reply

          Ursula, whether to freezing lemongrass or not depends on the intended use for the lemongrass, which is usually ground into a paste in curry or in this case, blended into the soup. So the texture of the thawed lemongrass isn’t all that important. But if you want to use it in a stir-fry (cut into chunks) or etc, then freezing them is not a good idea :)

  • Millie | Add A Little

    June 14, 2015 at 4:38 PM Reply

    I love tom yum and this looks amazing! Love the spiciness mmm!

  • Emily

    June 14, 2015 at 9:44 PM Reply

    I used to live in Beijing and I too had the strange experience one morning of seeing a clear blue sky. I can totally relate to thinking it was exciting and eerie all at the same time. I love the idea of this dish. How long do you think the shrimp oil would keep?

  • Laverne

    June 15, 2015 at 4:09 AM Reply

    NEW website today!! I can hardly wait to read more and more, and try the recipes. I can get kaffir lime leaves
    at Uwajimaya here in the Seattle area – hooray. So off I go….

  • Sylvia Li

    June 15, 2015 at 8:33 AM Reply

    im not from Beijing but around these days, people I know who hapoend to be in Beijing, they all share pics of blue sky, like ALL of them. It’s rare, I know.

  • Jana du Plessis

    June 15, 2015 at 9:05 PM Reply

    You may have won a Saveur Blog Award for your photography, but your writing should have taken a prize as well!! Ridiculously captivating and terribly enticing. I love it.

  • Reen

    June 16, 2015 at 4:58 AM Reply

    Well, thank you! I have just done the dirty deed with shrimp, which I have never done. I found myself looking out the kitchen window a lot, rather than watching the carnage in my sink. But I know it is all worth it because you have led me down many wonderful culinary paths! Thank you for these cooking lessons from across the world!

  • Alanna @ One Tough Cookie

    June 16, 2015 at 6:55 AM Reply

    I think this soup might be my spirit animal. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make it right away! Just finished and it’s cooling in the fridge, but holy hell it tastes AMAZING! Thank you for this genius recipe!

  • Karen

    June 20, 2015 at 6:08 AM Reply

    God bless you for squeezing all that extra flavour into the gazpacho! Shrimp oil is a genius idea! In awe.

  • Karen

    June 24, 2015 at 12:48 AM Reply

    Update: I made the gazpacho this weekend. Absolute star hit! Spicy lobster oil on the brain now…

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      June 28, 2015 at 2:40 AM Reply

      Karen, I wouldn’t mind some lobster chunks in this myself :)

  • June

    June 28, 2015 at 12:42 AM Reply

    Hey Mandy! I made this the other night and it was so yummy! A perfect combination of flavours and very refreshing. The shrimp oil was amazing. After the first bite, my husband asked if it was another genius Mandy recipe and I totally nodded ;)

  • caitlin

    August 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM Reply

    <3 this recipe… such a creative take on a Spanish classic. Buen provecho!

  • Seasonn

    November 7, 2015 at 2:20 AM Reply

    When I look at this bowl of soup, I feel like Amelie in the scene where she turns to a puddle on the floor!

  • Angela

    January 2, 2016 at 8:41 AM Reply

    This was a PUNCH IN THE FACE. The flavours were screaming, kicking and punching. I think wuss me just couldn’t handle all the bad-ass-ness of this gazpacho.
    Though I love the shrimp oil and will be making it again and again. I envision it in pasta but so much more…

  • julie tanner

    July 13, 2019 at 4:59 PM Reply

    shrimp oil is sooo good……brilliant idea! Was wondering Mandy, how can we store some after making a big batch? And how to defrost without , denaturing the proteins that give the umami?

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      July 13, 2019 at 7:25 PM Reply

      Julie, I used to just keep it in the fridge. The moisture content is so low it keeps for a long time.

  • Desarie Green

    May 30, 2022 at 12:44 AM Reply

    I live in CT, and I’m having a difficult time getting fresh kaffir lime leaves and galangal. Can I use dried versions of each, or will that drastically change the flavor profile?

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      May 30, 2022 at 12:53 AM Reply

      Desarie, unfortunately I don’t think these two ingredients in dried form would work. The flavors would be off I believe. Sorry!

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