Take it slow, baby, part III (Gang Som, coconut-free sour curry_

Gangsome

Inspired by my thai cooking session with Slow Food, I’ve been talking a
bit about the history of Thai food on Chez Pim. This post is the third
installment, you might want to check out Part I and Part II as well.

A lot of coconut based curries are quite well-known and popular in Thai
restaurants outside of Thailand. Less well-known are coconut free
curries, like Gang Som (sour curry) and Gang Pah (Jungle curry). It’s
too bad, really, because these coconut free curries are every bit as
good, if not even better because it’s also good for your diet.

Tonight I made my favorite coconut-free curry called Gang Som. I used
the paste that I brought back with me from Thailand. It’s homemade,
still, since it was made at my home in Bangkok and packed for me to
take back to the US.

The curry paste itself isn’t hard to make though. I’ve done it plenty
of times. It is far superior than anything you could buy in a can, so
I really suggest you make it yourself. The ingredients are quite
easily available, even, so there is really no reason for you not to
make it yourself.

Gang Som is made from a type of red curry paste, which could be made
from dried chillies as well as from fresh chillies. My family is more
in favor of the paste made from fresh chillies, so that’s what I
usually do. The main flavoring ingredients are the chilli paste,
tamarind, and fish sauce. There’s a bit of palm sugar in it too, not
to make it sweet but just to round up the taste a bit. Shrimp paste
gives the paste a bit of complexity, but it is entirely optional. I
make my Gang Som with shrimp, again from family habits, but you can
just as well do it with practically any white fish.

Gang Som
Sour, coconut-free curry

Gangsompaste
Gang Som curry paste

5 large not-spicy red chillies (like red jalapeno) and 10 red bird eye chillies
(Or use 1/4 oz dried red chillies in place of all the fresh chillies.)
5 shallots, finely chopped
10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a scant tablespoon of shrimp paste (optional)
a large pinch of kosher salt
Pound all the ingredients of the curry paste together and set aside

Gang Som
1 pound shrimp, uncooked and shells on
2 cups of cauliflower, cut into small fleurettes*
2 cups daikon radish, cut into 2 cm rounds*
4 cups of Nappa cabbage, cut into 2 inch pieces*
1 large handful of Sour Grass (optional)
7 cups water
4 tbsp sour curry paste
7 tbsp tamarind paste
10 tbsp fish sauce
5 tbsp palm sugar

1. Peel and devein the shrimps, separate the shells from the meat.
2. In a large pot, boil 7 cups water with the shrimp shells for 15 minutes, remove the shells from the pot.
3. Add the sour curry paste into the pot, bring it back to a boil.
4. Add the tamarind paste, fish sauce, and palm sugar, then bring the pot back to a boil.
5. Add Daikon radish rounds to the pot, let cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add cauliflower and let cook until done.
7. Taste the broth, add more tamarind paste, fish sauce, or palm sugar as necessary. Different brands of tamarind paste and fish sauce will not taste the same. You would have to rely on your on taste rather than the precise measurement, as my fish sauce and tamarind paste may not taste the same as yours. The finished soup should be sour first, then spicy, and salty, with just a hint of sweetness at the end.
8. Add the stem-y part of Nappa cabbage, let cook for 2 minutes, then add the leafy part and the shrimp meat and let cooked until just done, only a minute or two.
9. Turn the heat off and add the Sour Grass. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.

*Gang Som works well with just about any vegetable. This combination -Cauliflower, Daikon, and Nappa cabbage- is only one possibility. You can add pretty much any vegetable to this Gang Som -we even use the white part of watermelon rind in Thailand! Just make sure that you add the vegetables in the order of those taking the longest to cook to the shortest.

Sourgrass
P.S. The Sour Grass bit is improvised. We sometimes use a flower called Dok Kae in Gang Som. Since we don’t have Dok Kae here in the US, I decided to add a handful of Sour Grass, which grows like weed around my house in Santa Cruz, instead. The sour flavor from the Sour Grass goes perfectly well with Gang Som.

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  • Ay Lin

    How did you manage to get your homemade paste through US customs? You are brave!

  • Zoe

    Can you suggest any substitutes for Sour Grass that might also be available in the U.S.? I’ve never heard of Sour Grass.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/marc.r/ Marc

    Since tamarind comes in several forms, a quantity of 7 T. can give significantly different levels sourness, depending on the starting material. Could you clarify what form of tamarind you used in the curry? And do you have any favorite brands?

  • http://www.anns-kitchen.blogspot.com ann

    I wondered what the pretty garnish was in the curry picture. Sour grass is a weed in Melbourne too. I remember trying it in primary school and theorising with my classmates as to why it tasted so sour.

  • http://ironcheff.blogspot.com/ Gustad Mody

    what is palm sugar?

  • Alisa

    Oooo, I love this series!!!
    Someone, ahem, graciously gave me a jar of homemade paste at thanksgiving, okay, I’ll say it, it was YOU! Is that Gang Som? I have been planning a trip to Tang Freres just to use this precious little jar. Hopefully this is the right recipe. Yes?
    I can’t cook with you in person, I can in spirit!

  • Mike

    sour grass is aka sorrel, yes?

  • http://inpraiseofsardines.typepad.com/blogs/ Brett

    Brilliant improv using the local sour grass (oxalis). I’ve often wondered if there were Thai curries made without coconut milk. Sounds so amazing, Pim.

  • Diane

    Ay: Sour grass is a common weed in the west, qand is also known as oxalis – maybe it’s known as that where you are? I think it’s a western plant though. perhaps sorrel would be similar. I spend a lot of time weeding sour grass out of my garden, but have to admit to finding it quite pretty.
    Mad this today, and added sour grass – thus serving two purposes – weedinga nd eating!

  • derek

    Thanks, Pim! I’ve been looking forward to your Gang Som recipe for a long time. I can’t wait for a chance to make it.

  • http://chezpim.typepad.com Pim

    Ay Lin: I’ve never had any problem with curry paste, actually.
    Zoe: Sour Grass was entirely optional. I wouldn’t worry about finding a replacement. As I said in the post, just about any vegetable will do in that sour curry. It’s a great dish when I feel like eating lots of veggie.
    Marc: Yes, you are absolutely right. I will be writing a post on Tamarind in the next few days.
    Ann: I only found out recently that Sour Grass was even edible, from a friend who grew up in Northern California who told me who ate them as a kid. I tasted one and thought it would make a fun garnish to some Thai dishes I like to make. It’s pretty to boost, yes. Try the recipe.
    Gustad: See the Palm Sugar post!
    Alisa: No that wasn’t Panang. It’s Nam-prik Pao or roasted chilli paste, actually. There are a few recipes on the blog that use Nam-prik Pao. Try them!
    Mike: Yes, I believe so. I’ve never tried it with sorrel, perhaps next time.
    Brett: Thanks, there are a number of Thai curries that are made without milk, actually. I might write about more when I feel like eating them. :-)
    Diane: I’m glad you tried the recipe. I need to get more sour grass and experiment more with other dishes.

  • http://realthai.blogspot.com/ Austin

    Pim: Can you get krachai (sorry don’t know English name) in the US? I like to add that to my kaeng som curry pastes here in BKK. It gives the curry a warm, ginger-like flavor.
    Austin

  • http://chezpim.typepad.com Pim

    Krachai is called wild ginger. Can’t find them fresh in California, only frozen, but they are easy enough to find in London and Paris.
    I never use Krachai in Gang Som, it’s just one of those flavors that, if good, is not a traditional flavor component in Gang Som from the Central Plain. Perhaps the ones in the South use them, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  • Alisa

    okay, i will!!! thanks :)

  • derek

    I made this version of gang som last night, and it turned out v good. I first found this blog two years ago when googling for a gang som recipe, so I feel like this brings some sort of closure to my curry quest. Thanks again.

  • dom

    super votre blog a quand quelques mots en Français et surtout des recettes

  • http://www.beanzpart2.blogspot.com Jal J

    Hi, Pim:
    I just discovered your blog and loved reading the posts about your trip to Bangkok in 2003. My family is from Thailand and I grew up in the Washington, DC area.
    For Gaang Som, my favorite is made with peeled watermelon rind (the green part you normally wouldn’t eat) instead of cabbage, cauliflower and daikon radish. I do like the traditional veggies, but with watermelon rind, you don’t have that odor you get with cabbage and radish. Have you tried it with watermelon rind?
    Looking forward to reading more posts on Thai food and recipes.
    – jal –

  • http://www.egourmetstore.com/ Mike

    My wife is a big fan of Thai food. Keep the recipes coming!!

  • http://riya-kitchen.blogspot.com/ riya

    i prefer kaang som – malakor.

  • Nam

    Thanks so much Pim. Gang Som is one of my favourite dish but I never try to cook it myself. I definitely give it a go tonight, hopefully it will be as good as my mom’s.

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    i always thought what made the sauce that good was the coconut. I’m going to have to try this without the coconut fo sure. Thanks for the recipe.

  • http://www.raycreationsindia.com/ Aparna

    Thank you for this delicious recipe.

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    I love your blog so much, and there are just some differences with others’. Hope there will be more wonderful things in your blog. Happy every day!

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    hi excellent blog and excellent recipe Gang Som, coconut-free sour curry

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    Hey good morning people
    My family is more in favor of the paste made from fresh chillies, so that’s what I usually do. The main flavoring ingredients are the chilli paste, tamarind, and fish sauce
    great recipe John B. Barnhart

  • http://www.mythaibeach-restaurant-santacruz.com thai food restaurants in capitola santa cruz

    sauce makes this one

  • http://www.tebonin.com.au/ Tebonin

    God you save my life my mate love curry but he allergy with coconut. This is perfect for him.