Authentic Thai Sour Curry with Shrimp, Kaeng Som Goong – Thai Curry Episode XI

Thai Sour Curry - Kaeng Som by The High Heel Gourmet 6

I hope that you all are aware that there is a big protest going on in Thailand. It is the biggest in our history, and involves purely citizens, with no military involvement. We protest to eliminate the corrupt government which, through the parliament, is trying to pass a law that only benefits one particular individual and not the majority of the citizenry, and also violates constitutional rights.

That actually serves as a good excuse for me to not blog for three weeks, right? Well, if you are my personal Facebook friend (not the highheelgourmet page), you would have already seen my Thai gibberish every day on the updates, plus news, pictures about the protest, etc. (I don’t recommend becoming my personal Facebook friend right now if you don’t care about that stuff.) I just wanted to tell you that I am busy, even though I’m a disappearing blogger.

I’m not only busy beyond belief, but also stressing out about the whole situation. My friends and my family members are out there on the street protesting. The policemen used tear gas and some real bullets, believe it or not! I am very worried about them.

What can I do? I am here six thousand miles away. So I cook!

Well, what I craved is my comfort food. In the last post I gave you a recipe for a curry that had a very strong influence of middle Asia, Massaman curry. However, you would not see that on the dining table of a Thai household anywhere near often as the one I’m going to write about this time, Kaeng Som.

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Looking at the ingredients, you probably can tell this is truly Thai, with no influence from anyone else. Kaeng Som is the staple Thai soup. However, Kaeng Som isn’t as popular outside of the country as much as the other curry soups with a coconut base.

Yes, Kaeng Som doesn’t contain any coconut milk. Is this the first non-coconut milk curry that I’m introducing to you?

Let’s start with the name. Kaeng=soup, Som=the color orange, and also sour taste. If you guessed that Som in Kaeng Som is because it’s orange in color, you are only half right. Kaeng Som also has a sour taste as well.

Kaeng Som is eaten all over the country, from the north to the northeast, central and the south. Each region has their own version that is slightly different in both curry paste and the ingredients in the soup itself. This time I’m going to give you the recipe for the Central Kaeng Som.

I mentioned Kaeng Som in the second episode of the Thai curries. Remember, there are 3 types of curries in which I NEVER use pre-made curry paste—Kaeng Kheaw Wan (Green curry), Kaeng Som and Kaeng Lueng (actually called Kaeng Som in the south)—because they rely heavily on the freshness of the curry paste ingredients.

The basic ingredients of Kaeng Som curry paste are simple: chilies, either fresh, dried, or both; shallots; shrimp paste; salt. There are some optional ingredients such as garlic, fingerroot (Krachai or Chinese ginger), galangal, cilantro root, white pepper, lemongrass, shrimp, fish, and cooked rice.

Warning: Before we go even further, I have to warn you that this dish is very, very Thai. This is not one of the dishes I recommend to people who don’t like seafood. Or, if you are still a novice about eating Thai food, you might want to keep this to the last. My husband can’t even pull himself together to swallow this curry past his throat. Yes, he had to spit it out! It has a very strong taste and highly fishy smell, but it is so healthy. A lot of cooked vegetables with seafood, spicy, hot and sour. It is so precious to me in a cold climate. It’s best served extremely hot with fragrant jasmine rice and a Thai-style fried omelette.

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Ingredients for Kaeng Som curry paste (for 2)

Dried chilies  3 big pods of California chilies (If you like spicier curry, use a different type, or add fresh chili such as bird’s eye chili)

Shallot  1 big bulb, about 1.5”-2” in diameter, or about 1/4 cup when chopped up

Salt  1/2 teaspoon

Shrimp paste  1 teaspoon (roughly, depending on the shrimp paste)

Optional ingredients that I used

Garlic  4-5 cloves, or about 1.5 – 2 tablespoons sliced

Cooked shrimp or cooked fish  1/2 cup

Note: If you are vegan, substitute the shrimp paste with Vegemite and use cooked rice instead of cooked shrimp.

The cooked shrimp or cooked rice is to thicken the soup. If you like thinner soup, you don’t need to put it in. You can always use cooked fish instead of cooked shrimp, but if I use cooked fish, I would add half a teaspoon of galangal to cover up the fishy smell. (haha…don’t say that I’m acting like shrimp paste doesn’t stink. It doesn’t to me!)


This is the easiest method for making the curry paste:

1) Rinse and soak the dried chilies in water (hot or cold, doesn’t matter)

2) Cut all the ingredients into smaller pieces, unless you have a powerful blender, then you might not need to.

3) Roast the shrimp paste in a foil packet, unless you have banana leaf, then use that instead.

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4) Put all of the ingredients in a blender with the chili soaking water

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and puree them.

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Once you’ve got the curry paste, then you are ready to make a pot of Kaeng Som. The ingredient list for Kaeng Som is wide open and mostly depends on what you have on hand. Most Kaeng Som contain vegetables, lots of them. You can mix the vegetables together, too. Choice of vegetable is unlimited. You can even use fruit in Kaeng Som, too.

The choice of protein, on the other hand, is limited. I’ve never had Kaeng Som with land animal protein in it. Although I’ve seen recipes for Kaeng Som with pork legs, I’ve never eaten it. In my little world, Kaeng Som is made with fish or shrimp, or tofu for the vegans, and that’s it.

In Thailand, some households will use the fish or shrimp only in the curry paste and never put chunks of them in the soup itself, but my family is from the south, so we emphasize the protein in this type of curry.

Ingredients for the soup

All of the curry paste above (about a cup, but this is based on how much water you added in when pureeing)

Water  4 cups

Shrimp  1/2 cup

Vegetables, as many kinds as you like, together should be approximately about 2 cups (I used Ong Choy, water spinach and Cha-om omelette, Acacia pennata fried with eggs in one and use mixed vegetables, cabbage, kale, pumpkin in the other)

Salt  1 teaspoon

Fish sauce  2 tablespoons

Tamarind paste  3 tablespoons

Palm sugar  1 tablespoon


1) Put the water in the pot together with the curry paste and set it over high heat.

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Once it reaches the boiling point, lower the heat to medium high and let it bubble for five minutes.

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This is a curry paste that doesn’t contains just a few herbs and no spices, so you don’t need to cook it in oil like other curries, but you want to make sure that you cook it well, or the taste will be quite unpleasant.

2) Add all the seasoning and taste. Adjust the taste to your preference. I only gave you the approximate amounts. It should taste sour but salty, with only a hint of sweetness. The taste should be a little stronger than you want to eat, because you will add vegetables and that will weaken the intensity.

3) Add vegetables and wait until the soup is boiling again.

Note: for Ong Choy I didn’t add them into the pot, but only added it to the serving bowl then pour the boiling curry over. Ong Choy doesn’t need to cook that long.

4) Add the shrimp and cook until they’re done and the water is back to boiling again. Now it’s ready to be served.

Thai Sour Curry - Kaeng Som by The High Heel Gourmet

I pour the bubbling hot Kaeng Som over the Ong Choy in the bowl—that’s enough to cook it.

Side dishes

This dish is best served with side dishes. I love to eat it with an omelette and fried, salted, dried Gourami fish.

What’s even better than Kaeng Som is leftover Kaeng Som the next day. I mean, if you have some left, of course. The soup will become slightly thicker, with the flavors more blended. You can add more fresh vegetables, some leftover omelette and more fresh shrimp if you have enough curry left.

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You can follow me on Instagram under “HighHeelGourmet” for my food adventures, or just like my Facebook fan page, as all my food pictures are going there now. Believe me, it’s a great way to get food porn without political contamination.

16 thoughts on “Authentic Thai Sour Curry with Shrimp, Kaeng Som Goong – Thai Curry Episode XI

  1. Yeah I have seen the protests in Thailand and feeling for you, I actually thought of you! Cook a lot, as cooking is with love and hopefully that will be some form of energy with your friends there.
    Yeah I Have made curries without coconut milk, though they are of my own invention without any fancy names… xx

  2. Thoughts are with you. My uncle lives there, but as an American he probably does not get involved. It’s hard being so far from family in crisis. Cook lots of comfort food! Thanks for the recipe

  3. Loved this post. I haven’t blogged for a couple of months either but, like you, am cooking galore :-). I spent several days in Bangkok over Christmas and New Year – my first visit to Thailand, yet I’m Buddhist so felt it would be the perfect place to escape from England’s cold and rain and to escape from Christmas! It was amazing. So vibrant and alive. The warmth of the people and the simply fabulous food on every street corner. I spent a lot of time in the fresh food markets and came back inspired by Thai flavours. Yearning for Tom Yam Koong so very happy to see your recipes 🙂 I was very fortunate to avoid the protests and didn’t encounter any trouble. Flew back on 11th Jan and I think there was a big protest the next day.. Take care – keep blogging and keep cooking! Kate

  4. I tried to cook this recipe over the weekend. it was fantastic, but I am not sure if what I did can be called kaeng som koong…
    – I used your great kaeng kua curry paste recipe as base because I had plenty left from last week. Is it better to use the more simple curry paste described in this recipe?
    – I didn’t use tamarind paste. Is this a non negotiable ingredient?
    – Can you add lime juice and coriander or Thai basil at then end as with Tom yum?


    • The Kaeng Kua curry paste isn’t that bad for this but it contained too much galangal and lemongrass for my own taste. You can try the simple Kaeng Som curry paste next time you make it to compare and go for the taste and flavor that you like best. This will be your family recipe.

      Yes, you can substitute the tamarind paste with lime juice or even lemon juice. It’s ok.

      NEVER put coriander in Kaeng Som but lime juice before serving is ok.

      You can keep your Kaeng Kua curry paste in the fridge for quite a long while. You will see that it won’t rot. (My husband’s friend would say, “With that amount of garlic you put in your curry paste, I don’t think any bacteria would be interested in it.”)

      • Thanks. I will do it
        It will be a good experiment to understand the contribution of the different ingredients to the final curry paste taste


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