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Thai Food Recipe - Spicy Fish Stew with Green Papaya

Updated on October 26, 2015
Kaeng Som - Thai Spicy Fish Stew
Kaeng Som - Thai Spicy Fish Stew | Source

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I bought a green papaya the other day with an intention of turning it into a papaya salad. Yet, when dinnertime was finally approaching, I found myself craving something heavier and heartier. Kaeng som, a spicy stew dish, quickly came to my mind. It was a dish I ate pretty often while living in Thailand, but haven't been able to find in any Thai restaurant here in Sacramento. Although its title literally means "orange curry," kaeng som isn't a typical Thai curry made with coconut milk. In fact, it's much thinner than most curries but quite a bit thicker and heartier than regular soups. That's why I think it should be fair enough to classify this Thai dish as a stew. What I love the most about kaeng som is its wonderful combination of flavors: spicy, salty, sour and sweet. Eating this spicy fish stew is like making your taste buds go through an excellent full-body workout; they will be awakened and driven to ecstasy by the explosion of flavors.

Please Rate This Thai Food Recipe

5 stars from 3 ratings of Spicy Fish Stew with Green Papaya

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 10 min
Yields: 2 - 3 servings
Green Papaya
Green Papaya | Source

Ingredients for this Spicy Fish Stew

  • 3 cups of peeled and thinly sliced green papaya, about 1 inch long
  • 3 tilapia fillets, about 4 oz each
  • 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsps red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsps fish sauce

Thai Ingredients on (The Brands I Like)

Thai Tamarind Concentrate - 16 oz jar by Importfood
Thai Tamarind Concentrate - 16 oz jar by Importfood
I like this brand because it contains a good amount of tanginess. Not too overwhelming but just right.

A Note on Some of These Ingredients

  • Green or unripe papayas can be found in the produce section of most Asian supermarkets. Keep in mind that the white sap in papaya skin contains latex and therefore can cause undesirable reactions in those who have latex allergy.
  • Some other good choices of fish for this Thai dish are catfish, snakehead, bass and Dover sole.
  • You can either make your own curry paste from scratch or opt for a store-bought version. If you're not sure whether you'll be able to handle the heat, use only 1 tablespoon of curry paste in the beginning. You can always add more at the end if it turns out to be not spicy enough for you.
  • Tamarind concentrate is what gives this Thai fish stew a tangy taste. You can find it at most Asian supermarkets and grocery stores. If it's nowhere to be found in your neighborhood, try

Mixture of fish, shallot and curry paste
Mixture of fish, shallot and curry paste | Source
Green papaya being cooked with the fish mixture
Green papaya being cooked with the fish mixture | Source
Add the rest of the fish and it's almost done!
Add the rest of the fish and it's almost done! | Source

Instructions - How to Make Thai Fish Stew

  1. Add 4 cups of water to a saucepan or deep skillet. Bring it to a near boil.
  2. Add 1 fillet of fish and poach it for about 5 minutes or until it's completely cooked.
  3. Remove the fish fillet from the water, then process it in a food blender along with the shallot and curry paste. This ground fish mixture is going to be the thickening agent in your stew. You can either process it until it forms a smooth paste or leave it slightly chunky. I personally prefer the latter; it makes the texture of the stew more interesting.
  4. Put the fish mixture back into the poaching liquid. Bring to a boil, then add green papaya slices, fish sauce, brown sugar and tamarind paste. Stir together well.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and allow it to cook for another 45 - 60 minutes, or until the papaya slices turn yellowish and tender. Stir occasionally.
  6. Cut the other two fish fillets into big chunks and add them to the stew. Continue to cook for about another 10 minutes.
  7. Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!

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