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Thai Sour Curry Base (Kaeng Som - แกงส้ม)

A recipe for the base of kaeng som. Add desired vegetables and meat to this base to create Thai sour curry.

Author: Leela Recipe type: Soup, Curry, Main Dish, Entree Cuisine: Thai Serves: Makes about 6 cups


  • 10 grams dried red chilies (I use arbol), soaked whole in hot water until soft then drained well

  • 60 grams of peeled shallots, sliced thinly

  • 20 grams Thai shrimp paste

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 250 grams skinless, boneless meat of poached trout or catfish

  • 6 cups of plain fish stock (made of nothing else but fish bones and water)

  • 134 grams (1/2 cup) prepared tamarind pulp

  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 30 grams palm sugar


  1. In a granite mortar, pound the chilies and salt together until you have a smooth paste with no visible pepper seeds.

  2. Add the shrimp paste and continue to pound until smooth.

  3. Add the sliced shallots, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and pound until smooth.

  4. Add the fish meat and pound until you have a smooth paste.

  5. Put the fish stock in a pot and bring it to a gentle boil.

  6. Stir in the prepared paste, followed by tamarind pulp, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

  7. Once the palm sugar completely dissolves, taste and correct the seasoning as necessary. The flavor should be predominantly sour, then salty, and a little sweet.

  8. Your kaeng som curry base is now ready to be used right away or frozen.

  9. To assemble a 2-serving portion of kaeng som, bring 2 cups of the curry base to a boil in a medium pot, add desired vegetables. Once the vegetables are almost ready, add cubes of fish fillets or peeled and deveined shrimp and gently cook until the fish or shrimp is done.

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