Pic Left; "Gaeng Som Dork Kae" - Sour Curry with Dork Kae Flowers.
Sour Curry, or "Gaeng Som" as the Thais call it, is one of my favourite recipes.Some people call it yellow curry, but actually if you buy yellow curry paste it is more like the indian curry powder taste than that of gaeng som. Ganeg Som is made from an "orange" paste that can be bought in most markets, or as in some of the recipes below, be made freshly oneself. As I was new to Thailand, i found it hard to stomach Gaeng Som, (which was difficult at that time, as i got my food from the factory next door and ate free with the workers - we were in the South, in Surat Thani, and Gaeng Som was on the menu about 4 times a week). But strangely, after a while of being fed it often enough, i develped an aquired taste for it, and sometimes even moaned when we hadn't had Gaeng Som for a few days already.
If you can manage to keep at it, or if you like sour stuff anyway, then give Gaeng Som sour curry soup a few tries and see if you get the bug.
There are many different variations, not all of which everybody likes, which is the problem. It may take a few tries of the different variations before you find the one that is your special favourite.
Gaeng Som Kung Dork Kae - Shrimp Sour Curry soup with Dork Kae flowers
Shrimps - 1/2 Kilo
Canned Fish (in tomatoe sauce) - 1 can (155 gram pla yim brand)
Dry Chilli (big size) - 5 chillies
Dry Chilli (small size) - 10 chillies
pumpkin or gourd vegetable - 1/2 a fruit.
Tamarind Syrup 4 ladlefuls/cups
Galangal Root (sliced in diagonal thin slices - this root is a natural medicine, good for bladder, liver and kidneys - also good for stomach problems and bad digestion).
Lemongrass (this is also a medicinal herb - good for everything including colds and hangovers)
Dork Kae (Sesbania grandiflora - a kind of flowering plant in Thailand) , preferably with pollen.
(dork kae is easily planted and is used on roadsides and in fields to regenerate the nutritional values of the earth)
Shrimp Paste - one soup spoon
Fresh Orange juice (of the choo variety)
Fish sauce (Nam Pla)
Another version is to use the rather smelly but extremely tasty (in the same way that garlic is smelly and tasty - it hangs on your breath), "Cha-Om".
Cha Om is a fern-like plant that grows on the roadsides and forms the hedgerow of many a rural farmhouse.
Cha - Om is a fern-like plant that grows easily all over Thailand. In the North, the Thais prefer to eat Cha-Om in the dry season, as they believe that in the monsoon, Cha-Om takes on a smelly, rancid, sour taste to it, whereas in the dry season it has more of a toasted aroma, when fried. Cha-Om is usuall eaten fried with omelette and shrimp paste dip (Nam Prik Gapi), as it is seen to have been prepared prior to having been added to this Sour Curry soup too.
Gang Som Kung Cha-Om Tord (sour shrimp curry with fried Cha-Om) is a real super-tasty suop which we might refer to as a "Hot and Sour Soup".
Tangy is definitely the word for this recipe..
Cha-Om (Acacia pennata subsp. insuavis)
is one of thirteen Acacia species native to Thailand. This thorny multipurpose shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall grows extensively throughout the country in homestead. However, small plantations for commercial harvest of edible leaves can be also found.
Sour Curry with Goldneedle mushrooms, egg and Cha-Om
This is a real special kind of Ganeg som - the reason i didn't explain the method for preparing the gaeng Som Kung Cha-Om tord above this is because the method is almost the same as the one i am about to explain below.
Clean, prepare and lay out all your ingredients first. You will need;
Cha-Om - one large bushel (it is sold in bushels), or 2 smaller bushels
Goldneedle mushrooms 100 grams
3 chicken eggs
Shrimps - 200 grams
Fish (for mixing in the curry paste) - one fish (you can substitute the fishmeat for 10 shrimps instead if no fish available).
Dry chillies (BIG SIZE) - 8-10 pieces
Thai schallots - 8-10
tamarind paste one tablespoon or more
shrimp paste, one tablespoon
salt 1/2 teaspoon
cane sugar paste
fish seasoning sauce (nam pla)
oil for frying the cha-om omellete.
Step one; Soak the chillies a bit first to release the aroma. Whilst the chillies are softening up, you can set a small saucepan on the stove and boil a bit of water in it, this is for the fish to cook the meat, which will later be separated from the bones and skin etc, and mixed in to the "Prik Gaeng (พริกแกง - curry paste). The prik gaeng is the heart and soul of any Thai curry, whose making methods should be learnt in order to master the art of Thai Currymaking. The other essential thing to have well practised is the use of the pestle and mortar to bash the seasoning ingredients together into pastes and mixtures.
This is called "Tham" (the act of hitting the mortar with the pestle to grind up things with.Tham means to grind, basically. If you make the pastes with the "krok" (mortar), then you will achieve the authentic Thai touch that so often is missing when eating out in Thai restaurants in the Western world.
simply boil the fish in the saucepan until it is cooked thoroughly.
Whilst the fish is boiling, we can use the time to just zip over here for a minute, and see to the dried chillies (that aren't so dry anymore).We have to do that movement now with the pestle and mortar and grind the chillies and salt into a paste. Throw the chillies into the mortar along with some salt, and start grinding with a spiralling sideways movement.
The salt helps to liquidize the chillies, which are now softened from the soaking in water.Add the Hua Horm red shallot onions and grind into the mixture.
As you can see in the picture, the chillies have now become a thick paste, due to the roasting and grinding with salt.You should then add some "Gapi" - salted shrimp paste and mix it in until you get a creamy texture.After this, the fish should be cooked already. We can then take the fish and remove all the bones and inedible parts out and separate the fine flaky fishmeat. This also added to the "Prik Gaeng". Once pounded into a fine, creamy paste, the prik gaeng takes on a lovely warm orangey-saffron colour - which is, of course what lends the name of "Gaeng Som" to the dish ("som" means orange). I find it strange how we call it sour yellow curry, and not "orange curry". It is more orange than yellow, after all.
Once the fish is mixed into the paste it takes on a really thick bright orange texture and colour .
Follow the pictures, which leave no explanation necessary, and i shall continue to explain when we get a bit further down the page.
Fish Sauce (Nam Pla) - i recomment Tipros (tiparosa) or Pla Muek brand (squid brand). The brand with the chef carrying a giant shrimp is not to be recommended..it is mainly salted water, and has little fish taste to it.
The soup will have taken on a thicker consistency and an more opaque - this is part of what makes a gaeng som so tasty - the reducing of liquid along with the fish meat mixed into the prik gaeng paste makes this soup a very defty dish. A well known secret is that gaeng som tastes better after it has been left for some hours, or even on the next morning (yes, gaeng som is one of the few curries that do not go putrid quickly in Thailand - coconut milk ones last only half a day unless you reboil them constantly)
Take the Cha-Om leaf......................and beaten eggs
And mix them together
Heat some oil in the "Grata", and fry the chaom with egg, as if it was an omelette.
Once fried to a crispy consistency, the Cha-Om is then cut up into square dice-shaped pieces, and should look like the picture below.
Take the shrimps and add them to the soup - let it boil for 3 -5 minutes
Add the golden needle mushrooms and stir.......
Add the crispy cubes of Cha-Om Tord Khai, and the gaeng Som is Ready to serve!