Gaeng om is often described as a pork curry soup from northern Thailand. But it isn’t exactly a curry and it’s not a soup either.
The Atlantic’s Asia-based contributor Jarrett Wrisley wrote in 2010:
I appreciated this Zen description from my host, A-Nong: “It’s not really a soup and it’s not really a curry… it’s om.” Gaeng om is often eaten in concert with larb or grilled meats as a cleansing herbal tonic.
Gaeng om is herb-y, spicy and hot. I use “spicy” and “hot” separately because… well, it’s funny how so many people say spicy when they mean hot. Spicy can mean any number of things: zesty, piquant, earthy, pungent and, yes, hot. But “hot” doesn’t encompass all the other spicy flavors so to use the two words interchangeably is simply misleading.
Gaeng OmRecipe by
- 2 stalks stalks lemongrass finely sliced
- 3 bird’s eye chilies chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 one-inch knob galangal minced
- 1 pair kaffir lime leaves midrib removed
- 2 shallots finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- fish sauce to taste
- cooked pork belly (as much or as little as you like) cut into bite-size pieces
- 4 to 6 cups bone broth
- 3 cup cubed squash
- 3 cup eggplant wedges
- 1 handful Thai basil leaves
- sliced scallions to garnish
- Make a spice paste by pounding the lemongrass, chilies, garlic, galangal and kaffir lime leaves together. You can make the spice paste as smooth or as coarse as you like.
- Heat the cooking oil. Saute the spice paste over medium-low heat with a splash of fish sauce.
- When the color of the paste deepens, add the sliced shallots. Continue sautéing for a minute.
- Add the pork to the pan. Stir to coat the meat with the spice paste.
- Pour in the broth. Season with more fish sauce. Bring to the boil.
- Add the squash. Allow the liquid to boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for five minutes.
- Throw in the eggplant wedges and the Thai basil leaves. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Simmer for another seven to ten minutes until both the eggplants and squash are tender.
- Sprinkle in the scallions.
- Serve your gaeng om immediately.