Southern Thai Sour Curry with Pineapple and Shrimp

thai southern curry

Remember how I was telling you that what is generally referred to as “yellow curry” at many Thai restaurants with English-language menus isn’t what is known as “yellow curry” in the Thai language but a milder, turmeric-tinted curry we call kaeng kari (kari curry)? Now this is the actual “yellow curry” (แกงเหลือง) which is what the Centralites call Southern sour curry (the Southern counterpart of the Central sour curry, kaeng som). And remember Wanvipa Koonpan, one of the owners of Bangkok Kitchen, a no-frills, down home rice-curry shop in London which I’d recently introduced to you? This is my adaptation of the recipe which she learned while spending a few years in Samui prior to her move to England.

But first, here’s a word of warning.

In general, Thai food is not always fiery hot as rumored. Also, a high level of heat (as in ‘spicy heat’) is definitely not a requirement, let alone a mark of quality, in many dishes (those who complain about Thai-style satay sauce or massaman curry being not ‘hot enough,’ I’m looking at you). Even dishes that are on the hot side (e.g. red curry which is generally hotter than massaman) can be excellent even when they’re mild. However, when it comes to southern Thai food, things are a little different. If a dish is supposed to be hot, it has to be very hot and anything milder (as subjective as it is) seems to be regarded as inferior — at least by southerners. This is to say: this curry you’re looking at is very hot.

thai southern curry

The pineapple should help cool things down a bit, but still …

If you’re not familiar with southern Thai food or if your heat tolerance is low (nothing wrong with that), approach this curry carefully. You may want to use only half of the amount of chilies. Or you may keep the recipe as is but increase the curry:rice ratio on your plate from the usual 1 spoonful of curry per 2-3 spoonfuls of plain rice to 1 spoonful of curry per 6-7 spoonfuls of rice. Then you build from there. After all, this is how Thai parents ease their young kids into spicy food.

That’s the only precaution; everything else is pretty easy. The paste doesn’t require many ingredients, and except for the shrimp paste, you should not have a hard time finding anything regardless of where in the world you live.

Be sure to use a firm pineapple — one that isn’t too ripe. This means that it should look more green than yellow/orange on the outside. If necessary, a pineapple that has passed that stage of ripeness can be used as well; you just have to be more careful in not overcooking it to the point of mushiness and reducing the amount of palm sugar since a riper pineapple is sweeter. Lastly, I would use fresh pineapple only and steer clear of canned pineapple, even the unsweetened type.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Southern Thai Sour Curry with Pineapple and Shrimp
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: curry, main course
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 6-8
  • 10g dried red chilies (I use Arbol), soaked in hot water until soft, drained well and patted dry
  • 4g salt
  • 10g fresh red Serrano or jalapeno peppers
  • 8g peeled garlic
  • 60g peeled shallots, sliced thinly
  • 20g Thai shrimp paste (kapi)
  • 4g ground turmeric or 8g fresh turmeric, peeled
  • 3 cups water or unsalted shrimp or fish stock
  • One 2-kg under-ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 134g prepared tamarind pulp
  • 50g palm sugar
  • ½kg large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  1. Put hydrated dried chilies in a granite mortar along with the salt; pound until smooth.
  2. Add fresh peppers, shrimp paste, turmeric, garlic, and shallots in that order, pounding until smooth after each addition.
  3. Put water or stock in a large pot; bring to a boil over high heat; stir in the prepared curry paste.
  4. Add pineapple chunks to the pot along with fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind pulp; simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp to the simmering (not furiously boiling) liquid; stir. Once shrimp is half way done, turn off the heat; the residual heat will finish the cooking of the shrimp.
  6. Adjust seasoning as needed. The flavor should be predominantly sour, followed by sweet, then salty.
  7. Serve with rice.
If you don't have a mortar, use a blender or a small food processor to make the paste.


16 Responses to Southern Thai Sour Curry with Pineapple and Shrimp

  1. jaime @ sweet road November 7, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    That’s so interesting. I love Thai food but often when I go out I’ll find my food is too spicy to even taste it! I love a little spice but not so much I can’t taste anything else. Your recipe sounds really delicious, I’ll have to throw a few of those ingredients on my shopping list so I can test it out.

  2. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure and Health November 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I love anything spicy, hot food but looking at the amount of peppers that goes in this recipe- i am little afraid. i love thai food in general but do not have extensive knowledge on different parts of the country. thank you sharing.

  3. Francine Liem November 8, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    It looks delicious but my tongue and my stomach cannot tolerate the heat, so I will only put a few of those hot chiles in it when I make it. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Kusuma November 9, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    Lusting over this is not going to help with my insomnia. This looks incredible.

    Is this dish usually made with the curry paste going straight into the boiling water? Are there are other variations where this paste is fried first in oil?

  5. Lizzie November 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    As much as I love coconut milk, I’ve also been looking for Thai curries that omit it to make it a little healthier and this looks perfect.

  6. Peggy November 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Curries with pineapple in them are always on the top of my list. I’m a sucker for the spicy sweet profile! This sounds so good =)

  7. Laura November 11, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    I have always wanted to try this dish–but have always been scared off by the heat. Pre pregnancy I was able to eat the som tom and green curry in Thailand, even at the places who would not adjust it for me. Post pregnancy? Forget about it! I lost all heat tolerance, and since my kids have none it has just never come back. Alas.

    Maybe I will try this and bravely massively reduce the chile peppers. After all, I don’t really know any southern Thai’s who will come storming at my door with pitchforks. 😉

  8. spikygreengobbermontser November 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Thanks very much for the recipe the curry was lovely!When i make curries for my 8 year old i normally have 2 pots on the gas and just put a smaller amount of paste in the one for my daughter but this does work better on the coconut based ones.

  9. Thai Cat November 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    I’ve been looking for a new spicy Thai dish to experiment with and this looks great. Compliments to you and Wanvipa.

  10. Alex November 12, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    What can I use instead of pineapple? I have an anaphylactic pineapple allergy… but I love hot & sour things. Would sourish mango be similar? I’ve never been able to eat pineapple so I don’t really know what it tastes like (besides burning and suffocation).

    • Leela November 12, 2012 at 7:53 am #

      Hmmm. Mangoes that are not so ripe might work. How about firm tomatoes?

  11. Alex November 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    I’ll try it and let you know. Firm tomatoes are certainly not in short supply at this time of year.


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