Gaang Tai Plaa

Gaang Tai Plaa

For an authentic Thai curry that packs a potent punch, this
fermented fish dish is a clear winner. Its unique curry paste
simply explodes with flavour – and tongue-tingling heat.

Origins
Creative Thai cooks don’t like to waste food – so they came up a novel way to involve every part of the fish in the cooking process. By fermenting the fish stomach (and sometimes other organs) they created tai plaa, a concoction that is vastly different from the more famous Thai curries and has its own special taste. In Southern Thailand coconut milk is often added to give it a local flavour; upcountry the coconut milk is usually omitted.

You’ll need
Tai plaa paste
3 tbs fermented fish stomach
Handful of dried chilli pepper
2 tbs cumin
2 tbs sliced galangal
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tbs chopped lemongrass
1 tbs black pepper
1 tbs of kaffir lime rind
2 red onions, peeled
Pinch of salt

Curry
3–4 cups (750mL–1L) of water
1 cup of bamboo shoots
Handful of Thai aubergines,
cut into wedges if necessary
Handful of long beans, cut
into short lengths
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbs of shrimp paste (grabee)
1 cup of dried fish (tuna, Thai
mackerel or saba)
1 tbs lime juice
Boiled rice to serve
1 cucumber, sliced, to serve

Cooking Method
1 Place the fermented fish stomach in a mortar with the dried chillies. Bash them up with a pestle, then pour in the other tai plaa ingredients and blend and bash together.
2 Pour 2 cups (500mL) of the water into a wok and bring to a boil. Stir in the tai plaa paste, bamboo shoots, Thai aubergines, long beans, kaffir lime leaves and shrimp paste and pound some more.
3 Add the dried fish with a little lime juice.
4 Let this simmer for around 5 minutes. Add water as needed to reduce saltiness.
5 Serve with boiled rice and a side salad of sliced cucumber.

Tasting notes
Chances are you’ll be perched on wooden benches with your toes in the sand somewhere in Southern Thailand when you sample the salty brilliance of this curry. Like a good wine, it’s worth taking in the powerful aroma first before ladling the gaang tai plaa over your rice. Let the curry soak in to the rice before pushing it on to your spoon, Thai-style. Enjoy the meaty fish chunks, the slight crunchiness of eggplant and long beans, and the admiring stares of locals who marvel at your ability to survive their local dish. Unlike other Thai curries, this one isn’t simply laden with chillies; the peppers and paste give it an extra layer of heat.

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