Gaengsom – Thai Sour Curry (Southern Style)


My all-time favourite southern Thai curry – fiery, sour-y, turmeric based curry with a hint of sweetness from the pineapples chunks. Completely healthy as no oil nor coconut milk is needed for this Thai recipe! So, gaeng means curry and som means sour in this context. Generally, som means orange or orange colour in Thai.

I am ecstatically happy when my bestie in Holland wanted me to cook gaengsom for her, though I am on a #vacay but love her too much and my gaengsom too …so why not?! It is certainly our domestic routine now each time I get to see my bae!

This curry recipe is my rockstar recipe I suppose, the down south kinda recipe straight outta my grandmother’s gritty untouched village in south of Thailand. Google and you can see there are different versions of making gaengsom from the central to the south of Thailand but my grandmother’s recipe is more gutsy and spunky because the use of lemongrass, tamarind juice/pulp (instead of lime juice) and surprisingly no fish sauce.


There was one time when I was visiting a friend’s place just outside of Bangkok – I was a bit annoyed with her, instead of handing me a glass whiskey to greet me, she quickly gave me her pestle and mortar, inappropriately forcing me to pound the gaengsom ingredients for our dinner that night. I was about to question her Thai manners but found out there was no lemongrass in her gaengsom curry paste. Now, her manners can wait but no lemongrass in gaengsom –  is absolutely unacceptable. Let me assure you, I am not a curry snob. #justsayin

That was also the day where my lack of manners friend and I learnt the many ways of making gaengsom. In conclusion, we both wholeheartedly agreed that her hosting manners needs a tweak and lemongrass in gaengsom is a hell of a must. #mygaengsomtastesbetterthanyours


*Today I am using seabass, any white flesh sea fish can be used in this recipe. Try not to use any other seafood except for fish. Normally I prefer not to fry my fish but certainly, if requested like in this case my bestie wants her fish fried bathing in gaengsom. Fried fish in gaengsom is quite common too.

Level: You will survive

Fried sea bass / fresh fish

8 dried red chilies, soaked with water

8 fresh red chilies

5 – 6 bird eye’s chilies

Fresh turmeric, 3 finger sized pieces

3 – 4 stalks of lemongrass only the bottom half, sliced

1 head garlic, peeled

3 – 4 shallots, peeled

Half a cup of tamarind juice/pulp

1 tablespoon of shrimp paste


1 tablespoon of palm sugar / brown sugar

2 – 3 cups of fish stock / water

Watermelon rind / starfruit / unripe papaya (optional)

Pineapples (fresh/tinned – optional)

Morning glory (optional)

First, make the curry paste. Blend or pound the garlic, turmeric, shallots, dried chillies, fresh chillies and lemongrass. Add a bit of water, blend until pureed. Mix with the shrimp paste.

On a pot over a low heat, sauté the paste gently for less than a minute, careful not to burn the paste. Add 2 cups of fish stock / water. Bring to a boil, stir in tamarind juice and sugar. Add morning glory, pineapple or any desired vegetables. Season with salt. Once the vegetables are cooked, add fresh fish fillets. Do not stir the curry, bring it to a gentle simmer until fish is cooked.

Season to taste, the curry should be sour, slightly salty and sweet and definitely spicy.

In this case as I am using fried fish, I gently pour the gaengsom all over the fish. Serve with rice and eat immediately as you want to avoid sogginess of the fish.