Gaeng Som, unlike its descriptive English name of Thai Sour Curry, is a great dish that showcases a balance in three dominant flavours — sour, salty, and sweet. The key is that none of these three flavour overshadow the other, so the balance is perfectly equal. Yes, it is also spicy, but the better Gaeng Som I’ve had has only been mildly spicy (unless you have it in the south of Thailand, where it will taste like a different dish altogether, and much spicier than in central Thailand).
A common variation of Gaeng Som in restaurants has prawns and fried acacia (ชะอม) and egg. This recipe is a Gaeng Som with fish and a heavy focus on vegetables with different textures, so pay attention to which vegetables are added first and last.
A big thank you to the Ajarns at Rajapat Suan Dusit culinary school in Bangkok for this delicious recipe.
- Prep Time : 30 minutes
- Cook Time : 15 minutes
- Yield : 4 servings
- Snapper - 150 grams, diagonally sliced 1 inch thick, skin on
- Yardlong beans - 70 grams, cut to 2 inches long
- Chinese cabbage - 400 grams, large chops
- Bottle gourd - 150 grams, cut on the bias
- Fish sauce - 65 grams
- Tamarind paste - 80 grams
- Palm sugar - 35 grams
- Fish stock - 3 cups
- Curry Paste
- Dried red chillies - 5 ea.
- Dried bird's eye chilli - 3 ea.
- Sea salt - 1 Tsp.
- Fingerroot - 10 grams
- Garlic - 10 grams
- Shallot - 50 grams
- Shrimp paste - 12 grams
- Snapper - 50 grams, boiled and cooked, skin off
1. Begin by making the curry paste. Remove seeds from the red pepper, and soak in water with bird's eye chillies until soft. Then remove from water and pat dry.
2. Grind the pepper and chilli with salt with a mortar and pestle until pasty, follow with fingerroots, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste, and boiled fish. Grind to a very fine paste. (Alternatively, combine all the curry paste ingredients except the boiled fish and blend with 1 cup of fish stock. After blended well, add the boiled fish and pulse a couple of times)
3. Combine the curry paste with the fish stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add bottle gourd, boil for a few minutes until the outside of the bottle gourd starts to look translucent, then add Chinese cabbage and cover the pot with a lid if the soup does not cover all of the Chinese cabbage.
5. Add the flavouring -- fish sauce, tamarind paste, and palm sugar; be careful not to add all in one go. Gradually flavour and taste and adjust as desired.
6. When the flavour is right, add the fish and let cook very briefly. Add the yardlong beans last and turn down the flame, or take off heat.