Thai Spicy Pork Rib Soup (Tom Saap)

Close-up top view of Thai Spicy Pork Rib Soup garnished with herbs in a bowl.

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This Thai Spicy Pork Rib Soup boasts a delicious hot and sour broth that is infused with plenty of fragrant aromatics and herbs. It’s easy to make, full of juicy and tender pork spare ribs, and super warming and comforting!


  • 680 grams / 1.5 pounds Pork Spare Ribs (I used a combination of pork spare ribs and front spare ribs) – cleaned and rinsed
  • 2.5-inch piece Galangal – peeled and thinly sliced
  • 9 cups / 4.5 liquid pints Water
  • 4 Asian Red Shallots – peeled and thinly sliced (substitute with ½ a small thinly sliced red onion if unavailable)
  • 2 Lemongrass stalks – top and bottom woody parts chopped off and discarded, outer tough layers removed, and finely minced (substitute with 2 TBLS lemongrass paste if unavailable)
  • 810 Makrut Lime Leaves – destemmed and finely minced into a powder
  • 6 Garlic Cloves – roughly chopped
  • 10 Bird’s Eye Red Chilies (or use any other small hot red chilies), to taste – roughly chopped
  • 1020 Prik Kee Nu Green Chilies (or use any other very hot green chilies), to taste – roughly chopped
  • 2 TBLS Canola Oil (or any other neutral flavored cooking oil)
  • 3 TBLS Fish Sauce
  • 3.5 TBLS freshly squeezed Lime Juice, more or less to taste
  • ½ TSP Thai Chili Powder (optional), to taste

To Serve:

  • ½ cup Sawtooth Coriander – roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup Coriander (Cilantro) – chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh Mint Leaves – chopped
  • 2 Spring Onions (Scallions) – chopped
  • 56 Bird’s Eye Red or Prik Kee Nu Green Chilies (optional) – sliced
  • Lime wedges for squeezing
  • Steamed Rice (optional)


  1. Prepare all the ingredients: Clean the pork ribs and rinse well, then cut the ribs through the bone into 2-inch sized pieces. Prepare/chop the galangal, Asian red shallots, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, garlic, Bird’s Eye red chilies, and Prik Kee Nu green chilies as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and chilies into a coarse paste, then set aside. (Note: If you don’t own a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic and chilies with the flat side of your knife then roughly chop.)
  2. Cook the ribs: Add the pork ribs, galangal, and 9 cups of water to a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and skim off the scum that forms using a fine mesh strainer. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid, leaving a small opening so that the water doesn’t boil too rapidly. Continue gently simmering over medium-low heat for 1 hour and 45 minutes, skimming off the scum that forms periodically, or until the pork is tender.
  3. Sauté the shallots and garlic chili paste: In a separate medium sized nonstick skillet or frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallots and sauté for 30 seconds. Then add the garlic chili paste and sauté for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Switch off the heat and set aside.
  4. Add aromatics and seasonings: Once the pork is tender, skim off any particles and excess grease floating at the top of the broth. Then add the sautéed shallots and garlic chili paste, lemongrass, and makrut lime leaves. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, then season the soup with fish sauce, lime juice, and Thai chili powder (if using). Simmer for 1-2 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings if needed by adding more fish sauce or lime juice. Switch off the heat.
  5. To Serve: Ladle the pork rib soup evenly into bowls. Top with chopped sawtooth coriander (or regular coriander), mint leaves, spring onion, and sliced Bird’s Eye red or Prik Kee Nu Chilies (optional). Serve hot with lime wedges for squeezing and steamed rice if desired.



  1. Asian ingredients. Look for galangal, Asian red shallots, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, Bird’s Eye and Pik Kee Nu green chilies, Thai chili powder, fish sauce, and sawtooth coriander in a Thai speciality ingredients store or an Asian supermarket. Thai Prik Kee Nu chilies may be hard to find outside of Asia, so feel free to substitute with more Bird’s Eye or any other hot red or green chilies you can find in your area. See the post above if you’d like to learn more about each of these ingredients.
  2. Pork spare ribs. I used a combination of pork spare ribs and front spare ribs and purchased them in packages at a supermarket. You can use just spare ribs or even pork neck bones if you like. Pro-tip: Ask your butcher to cut the ribs into 2-inch pieces for you. Alternatively, buy pre-cut ribs for soup in packages at an Asian supermarket.
  3. Spice level. Adjust spice level to taste by using as many or as few chilies you like. Note that this soup is meant to be very spicy, but you can adjust the quantity of chilies you use to taste. Prik Kee Nu green chilies are fiery hot, so use less or omit them for a slightly milder flavored broth.
  4. To make this gluten-free: This soup is naturally gluten-free, but double check the ingredients label for the fish sauce you’re using to ensure it is GF certified.
  5. Skim the scum from the broth well. You don’t want gritty boney or scum parts floating in the delicious broth at the end and ruining your experience!
  6. Storing and reheating leftovers. The soup will keep in a sealed airtight container (without garnishes) for 3-5 days. Reheat over medium-high heat in a pot in the stovetop, ladle into bowls, then garnish with the fresh herbs and sliced chilies (if using) right before serving.