Sour Curry

Sour Curry (gaeng som, ??????) is a tart, watery curry which does not have coconut milk. The broth is made sour with tamarind paste and is salted with fish sauce. There are a variety of vegetables which can be used. Sour curry is usually made with ground fish and or shrimp.


  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups black grouper fish (or any white fish), scaled and cut into about 10 pieces (with skin on)
  • 3 cups Chinese turnip (or daikon radish), sliced in half and cut into 1/2″ wide pieces
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 cup very thin tamarind paste (if using store-bought, or thicker, use less. Add a teaspoon at a time until desired tartness)
  • 2 cups of veggies such as: long beans, pak gra-ched, napa cabbage, watermelon peel, yod fuk tong, dok kae, water spinach, ma room, cauliflower, :green papaya:, :cha-om: omelette, pickled bamboo shoots. See note at bottom for substitutions.

Curry Paste


  1. Soak the chilies in water until soft. When soft, drain and slice into pieces.
  2. Make the curry paste by smashing the chilies until a paste, then adding the finger root, shallots and finally shrimp paste. Pound until smooth in a stone mortar and pestle, or use an electric blender.
  3. Boil the water, and then add the curry paste. Boil for about a minute, and add the raw fish (with skin still on).
  4. Boil the fish for about 3 minutes, until the fish is white inside and soft. Fish out the fish. Take the skin off and discard. Pound the fish pieces into a paste with the mortar and pestle, or blend in an electric blender until smooth. Add the paste back into the boiling curry.
  5. Add the Chinese turnip and boil for 10 minutes until the turnip is soft and somewhat transparent.
  6. Add the palm sugar, tamarind paste and fish sauce. Make sure the turnip is cooked properly before you do this step.
  7. Add the rest of the veggies and cook for a minute until soft. Remove from heat and serve.


You can use any white fish: snapper, catfish, etc. If you cannot find Chinese turnip, you can substitute for daikon radish.

Most of these veggies are hard to find outside Thailand. You can substitute with snow peas, snap peas, and cabbage.

A vegetarian version of this dish is easily made by substituting mushrooms for fish (grind into a paste the same way), and light soy sauce or salt for fish sauce.



Prepare the curry paste ingredients


Smash together to form a paste


Boil the curry paste in the water


Add the fish pieces and boil


Smash the cooked fish into a paste


Add the daikon radish


Add the rest of the vegetables