• Thai cucumber relish (ajat dtaeng gwa), Siem Reap, Cambodia. Copyright 2015 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Ajat Dtaeng Gwa Thai Cucumber Relish Recipe

This piquant ajat dtaeng gwa Thai cucumber relish recipe is the perfect accompaniment to that geng gari gai aromatic chicken curry recipe from Thailand that I shared with you last year.

The first time I sampled the Southern Thailand dish geng gari gai or aromatic chicken curry, it was a revelation. It was not just the flavour of the salty, spicy, creamy, and rich dish, but how it was complimented by was what it was served with — ajat dtaeng gwa, Thai cucumber relish, and roti.

There is a myth that Thai food is a canonically pure, indigenous cuisine that mysteriously emerged, fully formed, in the 13th century when Thailand’s first capital was established at Sukhothai in 1279.

The reality is that the influences on Thai cuisine run deep and wide across Asia: China, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, India, Iran (then Persia), and the Middle East.

Indeed, Sukhothai had been an Angkor outpost when Tai tribal chiefs overthrew its Khmer commander. Their occupation of Sukhothai was one step in what was a “slow, but relentless, southern migration of Tai settlers, often at the expense of Mon-Khmer populations, which had its origins in southern China in the sixth century BC” according to J.M. Barwise and N.J. White in A Traveller’s History of Southeast Asia.

In Southern Thailand, as we learnt during our month of culinary research on Phuket that the influences on the island’s cuisine came from all directions but mainly from maritime traders, sailors and tin miners who arrived by sea from India, Persia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China.

With geng gari and its traditional accompaniments, the influence is clearly from India and indeed gari is the Tamil word for curry. Another sign of its origins? The flaky pieces of roti which can be dipped into the curry sauce or used to scoop up the curry and relish.

Since I first tried the curry at David Thompson’s cooking demonstration, held during the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, I haven’t been able to eat it without this crisp, sweet and sour cucumber relish.

It’s such a refreshing taste after every mouthful of one of the most tremendously flavoured curries in the Thai repertoire. If you don’t need the relish, to me you haven’t made the curry rich enough.

While you’ll labour over making the curry, this relish recipe is very simple. It also goes well with that classic Thai staple, fish cakes.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Ajat Dtaeng Gwa Thai Cucumber Relish Recipe
This piquant ajat dtaeng gwa (Thai cucumber relish) recipe is the perfect accompaniment to a Thai curry.
Cuisine: Thai
Recipe type: Relish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 small cucumber, quartered lengthways and sliced
  • 4 red shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp julienned ginger
  • 1 long red chilli, julienned
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves
  1. Combine vinegar, sugar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Remove from heat when sugar is dissolved and cool down to room temperature.
  3. When ready to serve, add the rest of the ingredients. It should taste both sour and sweet.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 240 Fat: 0.6g Saturated fat: 0.2g Unsaturated fat: 0.4g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 57.8g Sugar: 41.6g Sodium: 171mg Fiber: 1.8g Protein: 3.5g Cholesterol: 0mg


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2017-07-20T13:20:18+00:00By |

About the Author:

Professional travel/food editorial/commercial photographer and food and travel writer based in Asia. His photography and writing assignments has seen him visit over 70 countries. Has authored some 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides. Photography has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust, Get Lost, Travel+Leisure Asia, DestinAsian, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee and many more.


  1. Jim K February 10, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    David also uses this relish for his fish cakes, they are amazing! Much better than the sweet chilli sauce that gets served with it…

  2. Terence Carter February 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Thanks Jim, totally agree about the sweet chilli sauce, particularly the store booth ones.
    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Fee June 13, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    This relish is absolutely bursting with flavour. I think I could jazz up quite a few family favourites with it.

  4. Lara Dunston July 14, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Agree, Fee. It doesn’t have to accompany spicy curries or any sort of spicy food – you could even try it with a barbecued chicken and rice, for instance.

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