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Growing up in Myanmar, Ah Lun loved turning chili peppers and vegetables from his family's garden into nutritious meals.

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Ah Lun's

Tom Yum Soup

Ah Lun came to love tom yum soup, a traditional Thai dish, while working as a cook in Malaysia. Known for its distinct hot and sour flavors, the soup has been popularized around the world. Serves four.


  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bottom bulb minced and stalk reserved
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 red Thai or Serrano chili, deseeded and minced
  • 12 medium raw shrimp, shelled
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon nam phrik phao or Thai-roasted red chili paste


Heat chicken stock in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add minced lemongrass and reserved stalk. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes or until fragrant. Add garlic, lime leaves, mushrooms and chili. Cook five minutes more.

Add bell pepper, chili paste and shrimp. Cook five minutes or until shrimp appears pink and plump. Reduce heat to low and add fish sauce. Like so many Southeast Asian dishes, this soup aims to have a delicious balance of salty, sweet and tart flavors. Taste the soup now and adjust to suit your own palate. For more spice, add chili. For more salt, add fish sauce - a little goes a long way. If the soup is too sour, add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. A squeeze of lime can help make the soup less salty. Remove lemongrass stalk and ladle into large bowls. Serve topped with chopped cilantro.

More About Ah Lun


Home Country

Political tensions forced Ah Lun to leave his home and flee to safety in Malaysia, where he worked in a restaurant kitchen. Learn more about the IRC's work in Myanmar »

New York

New Roots City

When Ah Lun arrived in New York as a refugee, the IRC found him housing, enrolled him in English classes and connected him with a job at a catering company.

"Working in the garden reminds me of my village and family."

As a lead farmer at the IRC's New Roots garden in the South Bronx, he is sharing his gardening skills with other refugees and promoting healthy eating in the local community. Explore New Roots Near You »