Special Thai Orange Fish Soup

Special Thai orange soup

D. Schmidt

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 6 mins
Total: 21 mins
Servings: 2 servings

This beautiful Thai soup makes a gracious addition to any table. Serve it as a special appetizer for a dinner party or just make it for dinner In Thai, it's known as "Geng Som Pla" - which actually means "Orange Fish Curry" - an ancient recipe from the Central Plains region of Thailand. It is a fiery-hot soup with both sour and sweet overtones that make for a lively combination, especially when paired with your choice of fish and/or seafood. Plenty of fresh local vegetables are another characteristic of this wonderfully healthy Thai soup.


  • 6 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 2 to 3 small to medium fillets of sole (or snapper, or any "white" fish, cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 10 medium shrimp (or other shellfish)
  • Juice of 2 oranges (or about 1 cup prepared orange juice)
  • 2 tsp. tamarind paste (available at Asian/Indian food stores, or 2 tbsp. lime juice)
  • 1 tbsp. palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 cups baby bok choy (or other Chinese greens, chopped if leaves are large)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup green beans (cut into 2-inch lengths)
  • 1 small zucchini (cut into matchstick-like pieces)
  • 3-4 fresh orange slices (cut in half)
  • For the Paste:
  • 1 shallot (or 1/4 cup purple onion)
  • 1/2-1 fresh red chili (or chili flakes to taste)
  • 1 thumb-size piece ginger
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. shrimp paste (or 1 extra tsp. fish sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • Generous handful fresh coriander (plus, extra for later)

Steps to Make It

  1. Make the soup paste, either by mincing and stirring all paste ingredients together by hand or by placing paste ingredients in food processor and processing well.

  2. Warm a medium-size soup pot over high heat.  Drizzle vegetable oil in the bottom then add the paste you just made.  Stir-fry 1-2 minutes to release the fragrance, then add stock, orange juice, tamarind or lime, and sugar. When soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium.

  3. Add the firmer of the vegetables: the beans and "whiter" parts of the Chinese cabbage, if using. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, or until beans have softened.

  4. Add remaining vegetables, plus fish and shrimp. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes, until fish has turned firm and opaque-white and shrimp are pink and plump.  Finally, add the fish sauce. Tip: Don't over-stir at this point, as this will cause fish pieces to break up.

  5. Remove soup from the heat and do a taste-test. It should be spicy, salty, and sour with overtones of sweetness. Increase flavor/saltiness by adding more fish sauce (if it's too salty for your taste, add more lime juice); then work on adjusting the sour-sweetness balance. Exactly how sour or sweet your soup tastes will depend on the sweetness of your oranges/orange juice and the strength of your tamarind paste/lime juice which is quite sour. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp. more brown sugar, as needed, OR up to 1/4 cup more orange juice (if the juice is sweet). For a richer soup, add up to 1/2 cup coconut milk. If you'd like more spice and flavor, add a dollop or two of Thai chili sauce.

  6. To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Add several half-slices of orange to each bowl, then sprinkle over the fresh coriander. (Note: Noodles can also be added). Enjoy.

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