Gaeng Som Goong Kai Jeow Cha Om

(Sour Prawn Curry with Acacia Leaf Omelette)

prawns in the market

I love this — it’s a sour curry with prawns, garnished with an acacia leaf omelette: a real Central Thailand dish from the ancient capitol of Sukothai. It is sour, pungent and spicy, and shot through with the area’s big ingredient: tamarind.

You can replace the prawns with fish if you like, either by cooking fillets in the sauce or by pouring it over a whole deep-fried snapper or sea bass.

Serves 4

4 cups water

2 tablespoons tamarind paste

200g prawns, shelled

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce)

2 tablespoons sliced bamboo shoot

4 small tomatoes

½ cup chopped pak boong (Siamese watercress) or Chinese cabbage

23 tablespoons chopped white radish (optional)

pak choi or chard

For the omelette

3 eggs

a handful cha om (acacia leaf), chopped *

a splash of nam pla (fish sauce)

white pepper

For the curry paste

6 long dried chillies, toasted, deseeded and drained

a pinch of salt

1 tablespoon chopped galangal

4 tablespoons chopped shallots

2 teaspoons shrimp paste

First make the paste: pound together the ingredients in a pestle and mortar until it’s smooth. Set aside.

Beat the eggs together with a splash of nam pla and some ground white pepper and add the cha om. Then fry into an omelette in a couple of inches of VERY hot oil. Once cooked and golden, remove from the oil with a slatted spoon and drain. Chop into squares and set aside.

Bring the water or stock to the boil. Add a few shrimp, chopped finely, and simmer until cooked. Remove the prawns and work them gently into the paste with a pestle and mortar until combined.

Return the stock to the boil, add the tamarind paste, sugar and nam pla. Add the paste. Return to the boil. Add the vegetables – you’ll need to figure out which will take the longest to cook and add them first (usually, it’s the hardest), depending on the vegetables you have available.

When all the vegetables are in, add the rest of the prawns. Simmer for a couple of minutes until cooked.

Serve in bowls topped with the squares of omelette.

* Cha om is available at most good Asian supermarkets. If you cannot find any, don’t worry, you can use chives or spring onions instead.