Gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) is a colloquial Thai term that refers to ‘hot curry’. Today, gaaeng raawn is used to denote soups or curries served with steamed rice. While the precise origin of the term is unclear, gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) was deployed in the 1800s for a specific dish – a Siamese soup featuring glass noodles, cooked as either a coconut or a water-based soup with an assortment of dry ingredients revered in Chinese cuisine. The soup’s potential health benefits, combined with its ease of preparation and subtle yet profound flavor, made it a popular choice for entertaining large groups of people, of all ages and backgrounds. The soup is often augmented with fresh proteins: in its more luxurious versions, multiple proteins may be added, including a combination of chicken, pork, shrimp, squid, and crab meat. Thus, over the years, gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) was established as a staple source of comfort and warmth for people of all walks of life in Siamese society.
At one time, gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) was so sought after that it became embedded in Thai culture and language. For example, the phrase “Red Rice and Hot Curry (khaao daaeng gaaeng raawn; ข้าวแดงแกงร้อน)” references benevolent deeds and acts of merit. “Jao khaao daaeng gaaeng raawn (เจ้าข้าวแดงแกงร้อน)” is a term that stands for those who have nurtured and cared for us and to whose selfless generosity we feel a debt of gratitude. Another testament to the past popularity of gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) is the widespread use of the name “sen raawn (เส้นร้อน)” for glass noodles in northeastern and northern Thailand
Evidence indicates that the dish known as gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) dates to the Early Rattanakosin Era. According to writings by King Rama V, upon the completion of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram) in 1784, King Rama I issued a Royal decree ordering the ladies of the inner court to prepare hot dishes for the guests, and directing each servant to look after one hundred guests.
The court ladies were also instructed to arrange refreshments for the 2,667 guests who invited to the ceremonies, as well as many other auxiliary guests. The dishes presented included fermented rice noodles with fish curry sauce (ขนมจีนน้ำยา), a coconut-based soup with mung bean vermicelli gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน), and rice cooked the Muslim way (ข้าวอย่างเทศ). It is said that the ladies had to process up to two thousand liters of rice per day to make the noodles (1 gwiian per day; วันละ ๑ เกวียน).
“…. แล้วให้เอาชามไปรับเอาแกงร้อน ข้าวอย่างเทศ น้ำยาขนมจีนต่อท่านข้างใน ไปถวายพระสงฆ์ซึ่งได้ปฏิบัติเป็นชามรูป ๑ วันละ ๓ ใบ แล้วให้เอาน้ำชาไปถวายพระสงฆ์ซึ่งได้ปฏิบัติด้วย แกงร้อนเจ้าคุณข้างใน ทำเกณฑ์ยกไปปฏิบัติ หลวงราชมนู หลวงพิเดช ขุนหมื่นในกรมรับเลกพันพุฒ ๑๐๐ คน ….”
That gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) has Chinese roots is indisputable, as is evident by the use of ingredients such as glass noodles (วุ้นเส้น), dried Chinese daylily flower (ดอกไม้จีน), black ear fungus (เห็ดหูหนู), bean curd skin (ฟองเต้าหู้แผ่น), and dried shrimp – all of which highlight the Chinese influence in the dish. Although there are no records or written documentation of “gaaeng raawn” prior to the establishment of the Rattanakosin Kingdom in 1782 and the relocation of the capital to Bangkok from Thonburi, it is likely that the dish was introduced and became popular as early as the late-Ayutthaya or Thonburi periods.
While the Chinese had been present in Ayutthaya since the 13th century, their culinary influence was minimal until after the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. At that time, King Taksin the Great – who was of Chinese descent – began encouraging Chinese immigration and trade and Chinese cuisine started to have a significant impact on the Siamese court.
👉 Further reading: Introduction to Thai Clear Soups
Gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน) may have a Chinese appearance, but its essence is truly Siamese. The water-based version of the dish relies on a paste made from saam gluuhr (สามเกลอ), the mirepoix of Siamese cuisine, and consists of coriander roots, garlic and white peppercorns as its sole flavor base. The coconut-based version of the dish is commonly flavored with a paste made from saam gluuhr – coriander roots, garlic and white peppercorns – combined with fermented shrimp paste (kapi) and shallots.
Both the water-based and coconut-based dishes are prepared by boiling the fresh proteins and dry ingredients together with the flavor base paste. This cooking method is similar to other watery dishes and soups. If you’ve never heard of gaaeng raawn (แกงร้อน), it could be because it was served as gaaeng liiang woonsen (แกงเลียงวุ้นเส้น) or dtohm gathi woonsen (ต้มกะทิวุ้นเส้น).
An overview of the ingredients
Glass noodles (วุ้นเส้น), also known as mung bean noodles or cellophane noodles, are thin, translucent, and made from the starch of mung beans. Despite their delicate appearance, they have a firm texture that provides a satisfying bite, and they retain their texture when rehydrated and do not become soggy. Glass noodles have a long shelf life, making them a convenient ingredient to keep on hand nowadays, as indeed they were in the pantries of the past. Additionally, glass noodles are gluten-free and have an extremely low glycemic index, making them a popular choice for health-conscious modern cuisine.
When shopping for dried glass noodles, it is crucial to select brands that utilize pure mung bean flour; its superior resilience to degradation upon rehydration guarantees a desirable, soft and slightly chewy texture in the final dish.
Dried Chinese daylily flower (ดอกไม้จีนแห้ง) was imported from China for its calming effect. When cooked and rehydrated, the dried flowers release compounds such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenols, which have been shown to improve sleep conditions and reduce depression. These compounds are believed to interact with the nervous system and regulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, although more research is needed to fully understand the specific chemicals and their effects.
Dried black ear fungus (เห็ดหูหนูแห้ง), also known as wood ear mushroom and tree ear fungus, is a popular ingredient in Chinese cooking due to its subtle flavor and unique, jelly-like texture. Rich in fiber, it has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, and is believed to boost the immune system. As well, it offers potential health benefits such as promoting digestive health and improving circulation.
Made from the thin film that forms on top of boiling soy milk, bean curd skin (ฟองเต้าหู้แผ่น) is another popular Chinese ingredient. The film is carefully removed from the surface of the milk and dried into sheets. The dried soybean curd leaves can then be rehydrated and used in a variety of dishes. They are often utilized as a wrapper for dumplings such as haawy jaaw (ฮอยจอ), deployed as a vegetarian alternative to meat in dishes like stir-fries, or added to soups for extra texture and flavor. A nutritious and versatile ingredient, soybean curd leaves are a good source of protein, fiber and minerals.
Shiitake mushrooms (เห็ดหอม) are a staple in Chinese cuisine and prized for their rich, solid, confident and savory flavor. They are commonly used to fortify the savoriness of various dishes and are known for their antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as for boosting the immune system. Research has shown that shiitake mushrooms may also improve heart health and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
The termite mushroom (เห็ดโคน) is Siam’s most well-regarded mushroom. It is valued for its almond-like sweet nuttiness and a flavor that is faintly bitter with hints of wood and a slight smokiness. In the 1970s book Thai and Foreign Curries by the National Council of Women under the Royal Patronage (ตำรับแกงไทยและเทศ สภาสตรีแห่งชาติฯ), there is a recipe for gaaeng raawn with termite mushrooms (แกงร้อนเห็ดโคน), which contains shrimp, minced pork and glass noodles in chicken broth enriched with saam gluuhr paste (coriander roots, garlic, white peppercorns).
Cooking gaaeng raawn
Cooking gaaeng raawn is simple; the dried ingredients are soaked in water, cleaned, and then cooked in the broth along with the meat, noodles and flavoring paste. However, there are various ways of preparing the Chinese dried ingredients that can affect the appearance and taste of the final dish. For example, some cooks soak the ingredients overnight or simmer them for a few hours to soften and release their flavors and health benefits, while others cook the dried ingredients directly in the soup.
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- 100 g shrimp meat (เนื้อกุ้ง)
- 70 g minced pork meat (เนื้อหมูบด)
- 4 cups coconut middle cream (กลางกะทิ)
- 1/2 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
The dry ingredients:
- 100 g glass noodles (วุ้นเส้น) soaked in water
- 1/4 cup dried shrimp (กุ้งแห้ง) soaked in water
- 1 cup dried daylily flowers (ดอกไม้จีนแห้ง) soaked in water
- 1 cup Dried black ear fungus (เห็ดหูหนูแห้ง) soaked in water
- 1/3 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (เห็ดหอมแห้ง) soaked in water
- 1 cup Bean curd skin (ฟองเต้าหู้แผ่น) soaked in water
For the paste:
- 1 teaspoon coriander roots (รากผักชี) scraped, washed and chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย)
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorns (พริกไทย) (S1)
- 2 tablespoons shallots (หอมแดง)
- 1/2 tablespoon fermented shrimp paste (kapi)(กะปิย่างไฟ) grilled
- 1 part palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 1/2 part fish sauce (น้ำปลา) or less, as needed
- Mince the pork and peel, devein, and cup the shrimp into bite-size pieces.
- Rinse the glass noodles in water and soak them until they are soft. Drain and cut the noodles into 4-inch (10cm) lengths.
- Rinse the dried black ear fungus, dried shiitake mushrooms, Chinese daylily flowers, and bean curd skin in clean water, then place in a bowl and allow to soak in water. Separately, soak the dried shrimp.
- When the dried ingredients have softened, slice the dried shrimp in half and set aside.
- Cut the bean curd skin into 2×1 inch (5×2 1/2 cm) pieces and set aside.
- Cut the black ear fungus into small pieces, discarding the hard stem. Set aside.
- Cut off the tough stems of the Chinese daylily flowers and discard. Set aside.
- Cut off the tough stems of the shiitake mushrooms and discard. Slice the mushrooms into thin pieces and set aside.
Prepare the paste:
- An overview of the curry paste ingredients.
- Use a mortar and pestle pound to powder the white peppercorns. Add the coriander roots and the shallots and pound to a smooth paste,
- Add fermented shrimp paste (kapi) and pound until smooth.
Cook the curry:
- In a pot, dilute the curry paste with coconut milk.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and allow to cook briefly before adding all the dry ingredients except the glass noodles.
- Add the rehydrated and sliced bean curd skin.
- Add the rehydrated and sliced dried Chinese daylily flowers.
- Add the rehydrated and sliced shiitake mushrooms.
- Add the rehydrated and sliced dried black ear fungus.
- Add the rehydrated and sliced dried shrimp.
- Simmer on low heat until the dry ingredients soften.
- After the dry ingredients have been cooked, add the minced pork and let it cook.
- Once the pork is almost cooked, add the shrimp and continue cooking until both the pork and shrimp are fully cooked.
- Add full-body coconut cream.
Add the noodles:
- When you are satisfied with the seasoning, the last step before serving is cooking the glass noodles. Add the glass noodles and allow them to fully cook.