Thai sour curry soup with fish and shrimp (Kaeng Som) is a tangy, salty, and healthy soup. This sour curry soup is popular in Southern Thailand, where the seafood is abundant and fresh. It's not only tasty but a healthy soup of nutritious ingredients.
Sour soups are popular in Southern Thai restaurants and central Thailand. Different variations of Thai sour curry soup with fish and shrimp (Kaeng Som) exist in the Northeast of Thailand, too. Essentially, the flavor profiles are the same, with sour, tangy, and salty. Sugar is used lightly, if at all, to help balance the strong flavors of the soup.
Why this Recipe Works
- It’s healthy and delicious, fits all the bill of a healthy hearty meal
- It’s comforting and satisfying at the same time.
- You can use just fish or shrimp if you prefer.
- You can make it vegetarian. Add more veggies instead of fish or shrimp, and have a delicious vegetable soup.
- Adjust the spiciness level by using fewer chilis to make the Kaeng Som Paste.
Gaeng Som Soup Ingredients
- Fish. Use white, firm fish like tilapia, bass, or cod. Fresh-water fish are fine, too.
- Shrimp. Use large shrimp with shells and heads on to make the creamy and tasty stock.
- Water. Use shrimp or fish stock if those are available to you. They are perfect for this recipe.
- Napa cabbage. The soft and velvety leaves add a lovely texture, while the white parts add a soft, crunchy taste to the soup.
- Green beans. Add a mix of green, healthy crunch to the soup. If you can find long beans, use those.
- Shallot. One of the main ingredients for the paste.
- Krachai. They are also called finger roots. They are from the same family as ginger and fresh turmeric. Don’t skip this ingredient. They can be found in the Asian market in the frozen section.
- Garlic. Adds a fragrant flavor to the sour soup paste
- Dried chiles. Use as many or as little as needed for spiciness. Remove the seeds for a less spicy soup.
- Salt. Just need a dash to help add flavor to the sour flavor.
- Shrimp paste. Adds an extra depth of salty and umami to the soup.
- Tamarind pulp. It adds a definite sour taste to the soup.
- Fish sauce. Add great umami and salty taste to the soup
- Lime juice. Use fresh lime juice in addition to tamarind. It adds a fragrant and sharp tang to the soup's
- Sugar. Use white, brown, or palm sugar. Just a tiny bit to help round out the salty and sour tastes.
Step 1. Make the stock. Remove shrimp heads and shells, and leave the tails on. Place in a stock pot and leave the rest of the shrimp for later. Add 6 cups of water to the stock pot with shrimp heads and shells, boil on medium heat, then let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 2. Drain the shrimp stock and discard the shells and heads. You should have a bright orange stock for making soup.
Step 3. Make the paste. Add shallot, garlic, Krachai, and shrimp paste to a small food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the mixture and blitz until a paste forms.
Step 4. Add half of the fish and 3-4 pieces of the large shrimp to the stock to do a quick boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the fish is soft. Remove with a wire mesh strainer and add the cooked fish and shrimp to a food processor. Blitz the fish and shrimp with the paste mixture, and add 2 tablespoons of stock water to help turn the blades. Set aside.
Step 5. Add 5 cups of stock back into the pot and bring to a gentle boil on medium heat. Add the paste to the stock pot, stir, and mix well.
Step 6. Add napa cabbage and green beans, fish sauce, and sugar. Cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.
Step 7. Add the rest of the fish and shrimp and cook for only 2 minutes.
Step 8. Add the tamarind sauce and lime juice to get the sour flavor. Turn the heat off and adjust with more tamarind juice, fish sauce, or salt. Done! Scoop into a serving bowl with rice and enjoy! The soup is best when it’s served hot.
Kitchen Notes and Helpful Tips
- This Thai soup is best when fresh. The fish meat and shrimp will fall apart easily if served as leftovers the next day.
- You can use just fish or shrimp if desired.
- If using smaller shrimp with no shells and heads, use less. Rather than using 1 pound of small shrimp, use only 12 oz.
- Use any other stock instead if you don’t want to make the shrimp stock.
- The best fish for this recipe is firm white fish like cod, tilapia, or sea bass.
- Skip the fish and shrimp and add more vegetables of your choice. Fresh vegetables for this soup are cabbage, kale, bok choy, green papaya, daikon, zucchini, onions, and bell peppers.
- Make it spicy by adding jalapeños and hot Thai peppers.
Kaeng in Thai means "curry." For this recipe, Kaeng Som Pla, Som means "sour," and Pla means "fish."
Some tasty side dishes that pair well with Thai curry are roasted or grilled meat, cooked jasmine rice, stir-fries or a light salad.
Depending on what recipes you are using, there are many types of fish used in Thai curries. These are some common types of fish used: catfish, tilapia, halibut, cod, and tuna.
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