Thai Sweet and Spicy Fish (Pla Raad Prik)
Thai Food! Probably one of the best or ‘the best’ cuisine style on this planet. Thai Food is pleasing to all five senses in truly awesome ways! Beautiful to behold, so fragrant it will knock you off your feet, the most gleeful sizzling sounds when being cooked, lusciously sticky and soft to touch and smooth, delicate yet robustly flavored and wonderfully textured when eating!
Some years ago i worked at a retail firm and a large part of my job took me to Thailand for sourcing designer crystal jewelry. The first time i stepped out of the hotel (i was staying in Sukhumvit) i was staying in, i was pleasurably assaulted by amazing food smells which came rushing to me! I was well and truly knocked off my feet!
There were lines of smiling street vendors selling all sorts of Thai goodies. Their carts were clean, they were clean and the street around them was clean too. So unlike what we have here in India! The aroma of some exquisite unknown dish quite literally lifted me off my feet and the next thing I knew I was standing right in front of a street vendor (just like what you see in the cartoons!). He was selling at least 12 different dishes from only one cart ! Food paradise! I ate and ate and ate and then ate some more! I had never tasted such flavors before, correction – i n ever knew they existed! The food was delightful! I fell in love with Thai food right then and there and still am till today!
If i have succeeded in even the smallest way in increasing your curiosity about Thai food and you want to know how to make your first Thai dish, here is a super easy, quick and delicious Thai Fish Recipe called Pla Raad Prik:
Ingredients for Two Servings:
Tilapia Fish – 1 Medium Size Whole Fish descaled and cleaned
Garlic – 5 to 6 Cloves
Tamarind – 2 Inch Ball
Cilantro Stems – 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped
Ginger – 1 Teaspoon Julienne Ginger
Fish Sauce – 2 Table Spoons
Palm Sugar or Light Brown Jaggery – 2 Table Spoons Chopped
Birds Eye Chilly (Preferably red) – 2 to 3 Medium Sized
Vegetable Oil – Enough for deep-frying the fish
Water – 2 to 3 Tablespoons
To prep for this dish do this:
Wipe the fish dry with a paper towel. Score the fish with the knife held at an angle of about 45 degrees. This will allow the fish to get cooked evenly inside. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the surface of the fish and rum gently all over. This will make the fish more crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
Heat up a wok or a semi deep-frying pan with enough oil so that the fish is entirely submerged when frying. When the oil is hot enough place the fish in very gently and away from you. If you drop the fish in then you will surely splash hot oil all over and may even get burnt!
Fry the fish on medium high flame for 6 to 7 minutes (maximum) on each side or till golden brown. Turn the stove off and remove fish from the frying pan and place on a wire rack. Placing the fish on a wire rack and not on a plate will allow air all over the fish surface thus ensuring that it stays crispy on both sides.
Here’s what to do while the fish is frying: mince up the garlic, finely slice ginger into julienne size pieces, finely slice the chilies and finely chop the cilantro stems.
Make a paste of the tamarind by soaking the tamarind ball in some warm water and then gently massaging it to release its pulp. Strain out the seeds and husk and you have homemade tamarind paste!
Let’s get cooking:
It’s time to make the sauce for the fish which barely takes 3 to 4 minutes! It’s that fast and easy!
Empty out most of the oil from the frying pan or wok leaving only 2 Tablespoons in it. Heat up the pan on a medium high flame and add the minced garlic and chilies when the oil is warm, stirring continuously.
Don’t brown the garlic, that will make entire dish bitter. When the garlic is fragrant add the ginger julienne. Stir continuously. At this point add some of the chopped cilantro stems.
Next add in the Palm Sugar or Jaggery and lower the flame. Remember to stir continuously. Do this for a minute or so. Now add in the tamarind paste and keep stirring. Add in fish sauce and taste for seasoning.
If it’s too sweet then add a dash more Fish Sauce and if it’s too salty add a couple of pinches of Palm Sugar or Jaggery. Some of the tartness from the Tamarind paste will cook out in the process. If the sauce is too thick add just 2 tablespoons of water to is.
Once the sauce thickens a bit remove from flame and turn the stove off. The cooking is complete in minutes and now it’s time to serve!
Place the fried fish on a plate and spoon the sauce all over the fish. Sprinkle the remaining cilantro stems over the sauce and it’s done!
Enjoy the goodness of Thai flavors: Sweet, Sour and Spicy! The combination of crispy fish and sauce is an out of world experience!
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