Citizens, today I am proud to share with you a most unusual (outside of Thailand) curry – one that does not use coconut milk as a base!
Kaeng som or gaeng som or Thai sour curry is a sour and spicy fish curry or soup with vegetables popular in central Thailand. The curry is characteristic for its sour taste, which comes from tamarind (makham). The recipe uses palm sugar to sweeten the curry.
A paste called nam phrik kaeng som is prepared as a base for the curry, to which water and the ingredients are added. The preparation of this paste includes shrimp paste and shallots and all the ingredients are pounded with a mortar and pestle. This paste can be made from dry red chilies and one made from fresh red chilies. Some recipes state that large chilies should be used, others prefer bird’s eye chilies.
Fish or shrimp may be used as the basic ingredient. Kaeng som is usually served with steamed rice.
Traditional vegetables used in household preparation include drumstick pods (marum), green papaya, and Sesbania grandiflora flowers (dok khae), including the red variant of the flower in kaeng som dok khae daeng. Other locally available vegetables are used in the traditional versions such as Ipomoea aquatica (phak bung) and Neptunia oleracea (phak krachet).
Following the popularization of the dish, currently the favored vegetables include cauliflower, white radish, cabbage, chinese cabbage, carrot, long beans and asparagus, as well as cha om omelet.
The versions using shrimp instead of fish are more popular; kaeng som with shrimp and cha-om omelet is now a standard dish in Thailand. Other types may include pineapple or seafood. The common point, however, is that coconut milk is not used in this sour curry.
Southern Thailand has its own sour curry, which is locally called kaeng som, but in the rest of Thailand is called kaeng lueang (“yellow curry”) or kaeng som phak tai (“southern Thai kaeng som”) to differentiate it from the central Thai kaeng som.
It differs from the central Thai dish through its use of tamarind paste, assam fruit (som kaek) and lime juice to achieve the sourness, turmeric, which gives it a yellow color, garlic, shallots. The main characteristics of the southern variant is the use of turmeric and that it very spicy, sour and salty.
I add garlic, turmeric and Chinese keys to mine. Many people add Chinese keys to tame the fish flavor and add a nice aroma to the curry. My version of this curry paste does use some fresh turmeric, in the style of southern Thailand.
Citizens, this non-coconut milk curry is both unusual and delicious and I hope you will give it a try! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo