Gaeng Som (Thai Sour Curry with Shrimp)

Gaeng Som is a water-based Thai sour curry that can also be described as a spicy seafood and vegetable soup. Literally Gaeng means curry and Som means sour. The curry paste is easy to make from scratch, as it is allowed to add water to facilitate the blending process. It is a light dish, because it doesn’t contain coconut milk. I have mostly followed the recipe of Hot Thai Kitchen, but decided not to use green papaya as it is ridiculously expensive here and doesn’t have much flavor.


Serves 4

dried red chiles (I used 2 guajillo and 2 arbol)

40 grams (1/3 cup) shallots

3 cloves garlic

3 Tbsp chopped or shredded fingerroot

1/2 Tbsp Thai shrimp paste

3/4 litre (3 cups) Thai fish stock, see below

75 grams (3 oz) cod or similar white fish

1-2 Tbsp fish sauce

3-4 Tbsp tamarind juice (or double that amount of tamarind pulp to make tamarind juice, see below)

1-2 Tbsp lime juice

2 Tbsp chopped palm sugar

1 carrot, sliced

100 grams (1 cup) long beans or green beans, in pieces of 5 cm (2 inches)

250 grams (3 cups) chopped Napa cabbage

300 grams (.66 lb) peeled and deveined raw shrimp

For the Thai fish stock

about 450 grams (1 lb) fish heads and bones

2 shallots, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

5 cm (2 inches) daikon (giant white radish), chopped

3 upper part of lemongrass, bruised

2 cilantro roots, chopped

Instructions for the Thai fish stock

Remove the eyes and gills from the fish heads. Soak the fish heads and bones in cold water to remove any residual blood, then drain the water and rinse the heads and bones.

Put the cleaned fish heads and bones in a stockpot and cover with cold water (about 1 litre/4 cups). Bring to a boil, then remove the scum that will rise to the surface.

After removing the scum, add the lemongrass, shallots, cilantro roots, garlic, and daikon.

(If you add the aromatics before removing the scum, they will be in the way when you try to remove the scum.)

Simmer the stock for half an hour.

Sieve the stock and discard the solids. It is now ready to be used.

Instructions for the Gaeng Som

Remove the seeds from the dried chiles. Put the chiles in a blender together with the shallots, garlic, fingerroot, and shrimp paste. Cover with some of the fish stock.

Blend until smooth.

Make tamarind juice by covering tamarind pulp with hot water and letting it soak for 15 minutes. After that, squeeze the tamarind pulp with your hands to get the juice out.

Strain the tamarind pulp to end up with the tamarind juice.

Put the fish stock in a stockpot or casserole and bring to a boil.

Add the cod and poach the fish until just cooked through.

Turn off the heat and lift the fish out of the stock.

Put the fish in a mortar…

…and use a pestle to pound it into a puree.

Put this fish puree in the stock, and stir to ‘dissolve’ the fish in the stock.

Add the curry paste to the stock.

Season the stock with palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and tamarind juice. The amounts are just a suggestion; adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Bring the stock back to a boil.

Add the carrots and long beans/green beans, and boil them in the soup for about 7 minutes.

Then add the napa cabbage, and boil for about 3 more minutes or until all the vegetables are tender but still firm to the bite.

Then add the shrimp.

Stir and bring to a boil for just 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. The residual heat will cook the shrimp without overcooking them.

The Gaeng Som is now ready to be served.


Peruvian ceviche is served without chillies but with sides of plantain, sweet potato, and corn.

9 thoughts on “Gaeng Som (Thai Sour Curry with Shrimp)

  1. No it is something else. In the photo it is between the palm sugar and chiles.
    According to Wikipedia:

    Boesenbergia rotunda, Thai กระชาย krachai, Khmer ខ្ជាយ k’jeay, commonly known as Chinese keys, fingerroot, lesser galangal or Chinese ginger, is a medicinal and culinary herb from China and Southeast Asia. In English, the root has traditionally been called fingerroot, because the shape of the rhizome resembles that of fingers growing out of a center piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dorothy. For the fingerroot, you could try an Asian supermarket. Here it is not always available fresh, but it is also available in a glass jar or frozen.


  2. OK ! These days I cook far more Vietnamese to the north and fusion Malaysian to the south but this Thai dish I have not prepared and it fascinates me enough to send it on to a few of my lists. Fingerroot is new to me also , but, *smile*, I live in Australasia . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love cooking Thai dishes or Thai inspired dishes, they are so flavourful. This one is interesting without coconut milk, and thickening the broth with the puréed fish. I’m going to bookmark this as our weather has become warmer.
    We have fabulous Asian grocery stores so when you and Kees come for a visit we do a grocery tour of the city!

    Liked by 2 people

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