Gaeng som pla – Sour orange curry of sea bass and bamboo

This recipe for gaeng som pla (a sour orange curry of sea bass and bamboo) from John Chantarasak comes from Southern Thailand. It's spicy and tangy, with a slight background sweetness. Serve with steamed rice

First published in 2022

Sour orange curries are some of the most popular amongst Southern Thais, with each household having their own recipe for the sour, warming and slightly sweet orange curry. The curry takes its name quite literally from the Thai word som - meaning both orange and sour. These curries are extremely versatile, using any combination of fish, seafood and vegetables to great effect. This version uses sea bass and bamboo as its main ingredients, but feel free to interchange based on what is available to you. 




Sour Orange Curry Paste

Sour Orange Curry

  • 300g of sea bass, gutted, cleaned and descaled
  • 300mm of fish stock
  • 2 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1 tsp palm sugar, (or caster sugar)
  • 3 tbsp of tamarind water, (or use tamarind concentrate)
  • 40g of cooked bamboo, drained and chopped into bite size pieces



To make the curry paste, begin by soaking the dried bird's eye chillies in water, until soft - around 20 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid 


Make the curry paste by pounding all the ingredients (including the drained bird's eye chillies) in a stone pestle and mortar until very smooth. Set aside


Using a heavy knife or cleaver, cut the sea bass into four steaks across the main bone, reserving the head and tail


Bring the stock to the boil then add the head, collar and tail of the sea bass in the stock and simmer until cooked through. Skim the stock as necessary

  • 300ml of fish stock

Remove the poached fish, drain well then flake into the curry paste, discarding the skin. You will need about 50g of poached fish flesh. Gradually work the poached fish flesh into the curry paste until smooth and fully incorporated. This will give the finished curry sauce body and viscosity that it would otherwise be missing


Bring the stock back to the boil then dissolve 2 tablespoons of the curry paste with the hot stock. Season with fish sauce, palm sugar and tamarind water. It will taste sour, spicy and salty with a very slight background sweetness


Add the sea bass steaks and bamboo to the simmering stock. Continue to gently simmer until the fish is just cooked and the bamboo is softened. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately with steamed rice

  • 40g of cooked bamboo
First published in 2022

John is the co-founder cookery project and soon-to-be restaurant AngloThai.

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