In the search for ancient Thai artifacts, baked clay mortars hailing from the 19th Century Buddhist Era have been discovered around Sing Buri, Pathum Thani and Sukhothai. These mortars were used to grind pepper, bird’s eye chili, shallots and garlic to make a paste used in cooking. The paste was added to boiling water, along with a selection of vegetables, to create a hearty, aromatic soup. The recipe bears many similarities to a dish mentioned in Dr. Bradley’s Dictionary or Siamese Language, published in 1873, known as Gang Leang, stating that “Gang Leang, they took grilled fish, shrimp paste, salt, onions, and pounded in water as a soup. Then heat up the fire and add vegetables of choice.”
Gang Leang is considered a simple dish that has appeared throughout history under slightly different guises in each region. In the past, it was called ‘Leang’ in most areas before being known as Gang Leang, its present name. The dish has been recorded in a recognized Thai cookbook and is described as a clear soup with shallots, pepper, shrimp paste, fingerroot and dried shrimp along with vegetables like angled gourd, baby corn, ivy gourd, and pumpkin and protein in the form of shrimp. Lemon basil is added to increase the dish’s aroma.