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Fried Foods in Thailand

Michael Babcock, Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Fried foods are found all over Thailand – as street food and in restaurants – in great variety and abundance. One of my first impressions traveling in Thailand over 2 decades ago was how skillful Thais are at frying food and how popular fried foods seem to be. This blog looks at and celebrates the Thai frying expertise.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Frying Fish Cakes

Frying Fish Cakes

Fried Foods

Fried foods at market

Thais are very inventive with their frying and it seems that they will fry just about anything: seafood of all kinds (shrimp, fish, squid), meats (pork in many forms, duck, chicken), kanom (bananas, bread, dumplings), appetizers (shrimp and fish cakes) and even leafy vegetables (such as holy basil – bai kaprao). We’ve even come across Fried Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Tod) while traveling in the northeast. Thais fry foods so well: the foods seldom taste oily or greasy at all. On one of Kasma’s small-group trips to Thailand, one of the tour members went into a MacDonalds in Chiang Mai: his main take-away was how much better the fried foods were there compared to those in the U.S. When a famous Thai chef says that “. . .Thais appear to remain ambivalent about it [deep-frying]. . .” I wonder if we’re talking about the same cuisine and people.

The Thai word for fry is ทอด - tod (pronounced “tawd”), as distinct from ผัด - pad - which means “stir-fry.” ทอด (tod) can refer to food that has been deep-fried or pan-fried. Everything shown in this article was deep-fried.

One only has to walk through a Thai market or anywhere that street food is being made or to look at the menu at most restaurants to realize that Thais love fried foods: you see them everywhere. They even fry leafy green herbs and vegetables. I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves in celebrating the variety of fried foods that Thais enjoy.

Remember, these are only a few of the fried dishes available in Thailand. (I’ve included them all in a Slideshow of Thai Fried Foods at the bottom of the page.)

Fried Fish

I’ll start with fried fish – one of the most common fried foods. There are at least dozens of different fried fish recipes in Thai cuisine, including many whole fried fish. The first time I had a whole fried fish in Thailand, typically prepared so that it was quite crispy, I loved it: you could eat virtually the entire fish, including fins and most of the bones. The crispy, crunchy feel in the mouth seemed to be an integral part of the whole experience. There was no oily feel at all – the fish might have been broiled crispy. It was quite clear that Thais know their frying.

Fried Whole Fish 1

Fried Lemongrass Fish

Fried Whole Fish 2

Fried Snakehead Fish

I’ve heard many westerners (and 1 Thai) who thought that the typical crispy-fried fish was “over-cooked.” All of the Thais I know would disagree: they love the way the fish is cooked so that it’s crunchy and crispy and they devour nearly the whole plate (only the spine and a few other bones remain) with great gusto and enjoyment. I’ve had too many deep fried dishes in Thailand that were not cooked as crispy as the typical fried whole fish to believe that cooking fish in this manner is anything but a culinary choice based on preference.

The fish shown above left also includes fried lemongrass and fried kaffir lime leaves.

You may enjoy Kasma’s blog on How to Fry a Crispy Fish Thai Style. Scroll down on that page to see a Slideshow of Some Crispy Fried Fish Dishes with a dozen other whole fried fish dishes.

Fish Appetizer

Miang Pla

Turmeric Fried Fish

Turmeric Fried Fish

The picture above left shows a popular appetizer – Miang Pla – Tidbits with Fish Wrapped in a Leaf. Kasma has an entire Thai cookbook (in Thai) of miang – dishes with tidbits – of which the best known is undoubtedly Miang Kam (Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits). This dish is essentially Miang Kam with the addition of fried fish. In Thailand a wild pepper leaf (bai cha plu), not betal leaf, is the leaf of choice; you take a bit of the fish, a little bit of each of the other ingredients, add a dab of sauce and pop the whole thing into your mouth for an explosion of flavors.

Above right we see Turmeric Fried Fish – Pla Tod Kamin – made from small fish that are fried (and eaten) whole. In addition to the fish, chopped garlic and turmeric are crispy fried to be served on top of the fish.

Fried Sour Fish

Fried Sour Fish

Choo Chee Fish

Choo Chee Fish

Although it sometimes seems as if the most popular way to fry fish is as an entire fish, it is also fried in chunks. To the right we see a dish popular in the northeast (in Isan, or Isaan) – Pla Som (Northeastern-style Soured fish). In this recipe, fish is cut into fillets or chunks, mixed together with salt and garlic and left out to ferment until it sours. After this, the fish is crispy fried and served, often with fried garlic or shallots (more fried food!), as shown above. In the dish above right, the chunks of fish are fried and then cooked with a spicy choo chee curry sauce. Delicious.

Fried Fish

Fried fish dish

How much do Thais love fried fish? To the left is a simple dish you’ll come across at just about any Thai market or kao kaeng (rice-curry) shop, such as Raan Nong Pun in between Ayuthaya and Sukhothai on Asian Highway 1. Fish is skinned, butterflied open, salted and partially dried in the sun; it is then fried crispy and eaten with rice. It is cooked crispy and simply like this because people love it this way. Many times when I’ve been eating with a table of Thais, this was the first dish to be devoured.

Fried Fish Curry

Sour (Fried) Fish Curry

Crispy Catfish Salad

Crisped Catfish Salad

Fried fish is also used as an ingredient in soups and curries. To the upper left we see Sour Tamarind Curry with Fish and Vegetable (Kaeng Som Pla). For this dish, taken from Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class, #2, fish filets are cut into chunks, deep-fried and then added to the soup. The dish could also be made with smaller, whole-fried fish: on our travels in Thailand we often have a Hot-and-Sour Fish Soup (Tom Yum Pla) made with whole, smaller-sized fried fish.

No survey of Thai fried foods is complete without including Crisped Catfish Salad with Sour Green Mango and Peanuts or Cashews (Yum Pla Doog Foo). For this dish, a whole catfish is grilled until cooked through; it is then torn into shreds and the shreds are deep-fried until crispy and used in a salad, such as the one above right. There is a similar salad that shreds roasted duck and fries it as the basis for a salad. This is not a dish for anyone ambivalent about fried foods. The peanuts (or cashews) in the dish are fried as well.

Pork, Chicken, Duck

Fried Pork Leg

Fried Pork Leg

Fried Pork Ribs

Fried Soured Pork Ribs

To the left above you see one of my very favorite fried foods – Fried Pork Leg (Ka Moo Tod). In this recipe, skin-on pork leg is first stewed with flavorful spices until it is tender; it is then deep-fried to get a caramelized, tasty outside to complement the succulent, tasty inside. It is served with a dipping sauce or two (to the lower left in the above photo) and often with pickled ginger. We now find it all over Thailand, from Korat (as above), to Trang, to Bangkok to Ayuthaya. Sometimes the pork leg is smoked (prior to frying) adding another flavor dimension.

The Northern Fried Soured Pork Ribs (Naem See Krohng) from Chiang Mai pictured above is another widely available fried pork dish. First pork ribs are fermented until sour and then they are deep fried. They are then served with a number of different items: peanuts (often fried, as well), ginger, Thai chillies and shallots. You pop the rib plus the other items of your choice into the mouth and eat them together.

Fried Pork Skin

Fried Pork Skin

Crispy Fried Duck

Crispy Fried Duck

One item that is found in most of the markets is fried pork skin, such as that shown above left, where it is served with a Northern-pork-based dipping sauce – Nam Prik Ong. Another fried pork dish is Crisp-Fried Seasoned Pork (Moo Tod Kreuang Tod), where pork steaks or cutlets are marinated, “breaded”, then fried, then cut into bite-sized pieces and eaten with a dipping sauce. There’s also an Isan dish - Crisp-Fried Northeastern-Style Hot-and-Sour Chopped Pork Patties with Aromatic Herbs and Toasted Rice (Lahb Moo Tod) – with fried pork patties. There’s also fried sour sausage – naem tod – which is shown further on in the blog.

On the right above is Crispy Duck on a Bed of Shrimp Chips and Crisped Greens Served with Spicy Plum and Toasted Sesame Sauce (Ped Lon). This is actually a tri-fecta of deep fried items, with fried shrimp chips and crispy-fried greens in addition to the duck. This picture is taken from Kasma’s Weeklong Advanced Set 2B class (day 5).

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

Fried Turmeric Chicken

Fried Turmeric Chicken

Lately I seem to run across Fried Chicken in all of the markets, northern, central or southern. The delicious looking golden-fried chicken above is from outside of the Crystal Pool in Krabi. Most of the street-food chicken is similar in appearance: golden and crispy. Fried chicken in Thailand is some of the best I’ve ever had: one reason is that most of the chicken is deep-fried in palm oil. Also, the taste of the chickens in Thailand is better: when Kasma was developing this recipe for an advanced class, she found that the type of chicken made all the difference – the big-breasted chickens found in American supermarkets just do not fry up as tasty.

In restaurants, you’ll often find fried chicken such as that in the above right picture: Crispy-Fried Turmeric Chicken (Gai Tod Kamin) from Bai Fern Restaurant in Mae Hong Son. After the chicken is fried, the various pieces are chopped into bite-sized pieces and served with a sweet-and-sour chilli sauce, such as that on the plate, and often some accompanying vegetables. You can see that the chicken is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside (click the picture for a larger image).

Vegetables

Thai frying enjoyment and expertise is not limited to the animal kingdom: they also are adept at creating delicious fried vegetables.

Eggplant Salad

Fried Eggplant Salad

Fried Greens Salad

Fried Greens Salad

To the upper left is a salad at Vientiane Kitchen in Bangkok that uses long eggplants fried in batter as the main ingredient: it is quite delicious.

To the right, crispy fried greens (Kasma uses pak boong – morning glory – in her recipe) are pretty much the whole salad with the addition of a tart, sweet and hot pork sauce poured over it (Kasma’s version of this recipe uses shrimp): it is crunchy, spicy and delicious. The fried vegetable does not taste greasy or oily.

Fried Sausage

Fried Sausage in Fried Taro Basket

Taro Fritters

Taro Fritters

The picture on the left shows Fried Sour Sausage (Naem Tod). I’ve included it here under vegetables because the fried sausage is resting in an edible basket made from crispy-fried taro. It’s a fun dish: you get to eat the basket as well as the sausage.

Next to to it on the right we see Crunchy Taro Fritters, Served with Sweet-and-Sour Dipping Sauce (Peuak Tod). In addition to making taro fritters, you often see fried taro chips in the markets; they come in two varieties, sweetened and un-sweetened.

Cha Om Salad

Crispy Fried Cha-Om Salad

Fried Crab

Fried Soft-shell Crab

Is there another cuisine where fried leafy greens or herbs can form such an essential part of a dish? The Crispy Fried Cha-Om Salad (Yum Cha-Om Krob) above left is from A. Mallika Restaurant in Bangkok. Cha-Om is part of the acacia family – see Kasma’s blog: Cha-Om – A Delicious and Nutritious Tropical Acacia. The fried vegetable is topped with a yum-type salad, in this case pork and squid with a sour-salty-sweet-spicy hot sauce.

Holy basil (bai kaprao) is the leafy green I’ve seen crispy-fried most often. Above right it accompanies a Fried Soft-shell Crab dish at our favorite Pranburi restaurant – Sunni’s Restaurant; the soft-shell crabs are deep-fried as well. The same restaurant makes a Stir-Fried Basil Crab (Neua Poo Pad Kaprao) that also uses deep-fried holy basil. Crispy-fried basil is also often served with Fish Cakes (Tod Man) and we’ve also seen it in the Crispy Fried Duck above. I’ve also seen fried kaffir lime leaves on a number of dishes.

Other Fried Ingredients

It’s not enough to have dishes where fried foods are the main attraction: there are also various other fried items that provide an accent or an accompaniment to various Thai dishes.

Bitter Melon Salad

Bitter Melon Salad

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Fried cashews are found in many salads, such as the Yum Mara (Bitter Melon Salad) above left. They also form the main ingredient of a spicy, limy Cashew Salad (Yum Med Mamuang).

Both salads above feature fried shallots, as do many yum-type salads. It’s hard to describe how delicious this ingredient is: the frying seems to accentuate the sweetness of the shallots. Yummy.

The Eggplant Salad above also uses crispy fried shallots.

Crispy Rice Salad

Crispy Rice & Sour Sausage Salad

Fried Fish

Fried Fish with Fried Chillies

Fried peanuts are an ingredient that frequently accompanies certain dishes, such as fried naem sausage or ribs, where it is eaten with the sausage (along with ginger and Thai chillies). Above left we see them with the Crispy Rice & Sour Sausage Salad  (Yum Naem Kao Tod) from Ton Kreuang Restaurant in Bangkok; the base of the salad is cooked rice, which is mixed with various ingredients, including a chilli paste, formed into rounded balls and deep fried until the outside is brown and crispy.

Both of the above pictures feature fried dried red chillies. You are meant to bite off a bit of the fried chilli to go with some of the salad or fish: it provides added heat, flavor and texture.

Dried chillies, in the form of dried red pepper flakes, are also fried in oil along with a bit of salt to make a chilli-oil that is served with Kao SoiNorthern Style Curry Noodles.

Street Food

Fried foods are found at pretty much every open-air market or street-food scene in Thailand. You’ll typically find many woks bubbling away with oil.

Fried Dough

Fried Dough

Fried Rice Snacks

Fried Rice Cake Snacks

Fried Dough, such as that above left from the Sukhothai Market is fairly common, particularly in the morning at breakfast time.

Fried Rice Cakes such as the ones above right from the Sunday market in Nakhon Si Thammarat are also fairly common. The swirls most visible on the green rice cakes (they are green from pandanas leaf – bai toey) is palm sugar, to add a bit of sweetness. (The purple color on the other rice cakes comes from butterfly pea flower.)

Fried Shrimp

Fried Shrimp

Fried Fish Skin

Fried Fish Skin

Another common market food consists of small, fried shrimp  in batter, such as the picture above left from the Takua Pa Market.

Fried Fish Skin, such as that shown above right, is one of the tastiest fried snacks. Click on the picture  from the  market at Wat Yai Chaimongkhon in Ayuthaya – in the larger version you’ll see that there are several different kinds of fried fish skin, varying in size and texture. The fried fish skin is sold with one or two different dipping sauces as accompaniments. Kasma always buys a few varieties for her tour-group members to taste: often skeptical at first (“You want us to eat fish skin?!”), they usually eat up everything she buys.

Fried Insects

Fried insects

Fried Naem Sausage

Fried Naem Sour Sausage

I was somewhat surprised the first time I tried fried insects: they are actually pretty tasty. In much of the world, insects are a legitimate food; after all, they contain fair amounts of protein and fat. The variety of insects shown to the left are from the market at Nakhon Pathom and as you can see (click on the image for a larger version) there are many different varieties: all fried.

I’m including the Fried Naem Sausage (seen above right) here, though this picture is from the restaurant Kaeng Ron Baan Suan in Chiang Mai, because it is often found as a street food. You select any of the other items on the plate (chilli, ginger, fried peanuts, cabbage) and pop them in your mouth with a piece of sausage. When you buy it on the street, you get a log bamboo stick, which you use to spear a sausage bite, with the accoutrements in an accompanying plastic bag.

Appetizers

In the fried fish section above, the dish Miang Pla is often served as an appetizer; also the Fried Naem Sour Sausage directly above.

Fish Cakes

Fried Fish Cakes

Shrimp Cakes

Fried Shrimp Cakes

If I was told that Fried Fish cakes (Tod Man Pla) are the most popular appetizer in Thailand, I would not be surprised. You see them everywhere: in nearly every market (I could have included this is the Street Food section above) and in many restaurants. These are nearly always served with the sweet dipping sauce shown in the picture above left and a cucumber relish/salad, which is not pictured. This photo was taken at Don Wai Market in Nakhon Pathom province; The very first picture in this blog shows a young woman frying these fish cakes at the same market.

The second photo (to the right) shows another type of Tod Man, which is fried after being “breaded.” It is Tod Man Goong – Fried Shrimp Cakes – from the restaurant at Koh Poda in Krabi province. These are served with just a sweet dipping sauce.

Tod Man is characterized by a rather “bouncy” texture.

Fried Noodles

Glazed Crispy Noodles

Shrimp Toast

Fried Shrimp Toast

The above left picture shows Glazed Crispy Noodles – Mee Krob – from Kasma’s First Intermediate Thai Cooking Class. Thin rice sticks (a type of noodle – sen mee in Thai) are fried until golden and crispy at the edges and then crumbled in a bowl and coated with a sweet sauce (also slightly sour and salty). It is typically served with egg shreds, slivered red chillies, bean sprouts, garlic chives or green onions, to help cut any oiliness left on the noodles. In restaurants this dish is often too sweet for my taste.

The second picture shows Crispy Shrimp Toast, Served with Cucumber Relish – Kanom Pang Na Goong – from Trang. In this recipe, a shrimp mixture made from ground shrimp, more like a paste really, is spread over bread and then deep-fried until brown. Kasma’s version uses both shrimp and crab and is served with a sweet-and-sour plum sauce; in the version above right, it is served with a slightly sweet cucumber relish. There’s also Crispy Pork Toast and Crispy Crab Toast.

Fried Won Ton

Fried Won Ton

Fish Sausage

Fried Fish Sausage

Another appetizer, above left, from Ubon Ratchathani, is Crispy Fried Won Ton. I include it here even though won ton are really more Chinese than Thai.

I’ve included the second picture because I love the presentation. it shows Deep-fried Fish Sausage presented in-between the (fried) fish head and tail; it comes with the sour/spicy dipping sauce shown on the plate to the upper right. We had this at the restaurant Kai Mook in Mae Hong Son.

Desserts

Fried Bananas

Fried Bananas

Fried Peanut Crunch

Fried Peanut Crunch

Fried Bananas – Kluay Tod – are one of the most common street foods. It is also a fairly common dessert in restaurants. The picture above left actually is from the Mae Sa Resort above Chiang Mai: it’s a bit puffier than most of its street-food variety counterparts. You’ll also find fried banana chips in nearly any market or kanom shop.

The second picture is from a  market at Wat Yai Chaimongkhon in Ayuthaya. It shows Fried Peanut Crunch (Tua Tod Paen), a tasty fried kanom that you’ll see in some of the markets around the country. They are slightly sweet (not overly so), crunchy and tasty.


Slideshow of Thai Fried Foods

As you watch this, reflect on the fact that you are seeing a fraction of the fried dishes available in Thailand.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Fried Foods
Fried Whole Fish 1
Fried Whole Fish 2
Fish Appetizer
Turmeric Fried Fish
Fried Sour Fish
Choo Chee Fish
Fried Fish
Fried Fish Curry
Crispy Catfish Salad
Fried Pork Leg
Fried Pork Ribs
Fried Pork Skin
Crispy Fried Duck
Fried Chicken
Fried Turmeric Chicken
Fried Eggplant Salad
Fried Greens Salad
Fried Sausage
Taro Fritters
Cha Om Salad
Fried Crab
Bitter Melon Salad
Roasted Eggplant Salad
Crispy Rice Salad
Fried Fish
Fried Dough
Fried Rice Cake Snacks
Fried Shrimp
Fried Fish Skin
Fried Insects
Fried Naem Sausage
Fish Cakes
Shrimp Cakes
Fried Noodles
Shrimp Toast
Fried Won Ton
Fish Sausage
Fried Bananas
Fried Peanut Crunch

Fried shrimp and chicken at Worarat market in Chiang Mai

Fried Lemongrass Fish from Chiang Mai

Fried Snakehead Fish at Bai Fern Restaurant in Mae Hong Son

A fish appetizer - Miang Pla - from Vientiane Kitchen in Bangkok

Turmeric Fried Fish - Pla Tod Kamin - served with crispy-fried garlic and turmeric

Fried Sour Fish - Pla Som Tod - from Nong Kai

Fried Choo Chee Fish from Sukhothai

Fish, salted, partially sun-dried and then fried

Sour Tamarind Curry with (Fried) Fish and Vegetable (Kaeng Som Pla)

Crisped Catfish Salad with Sour Green Mango and Peanuts (Yam Pla Doog Foo)

Fried Pork Leg (Ka Moo Tod) from Korat

Northern Fried Soured Pork Ribs (Naem See Krohng)

Fried Pork Skin with Dipping Sauce

Crispy Duck on a Bed of Shrimp Chips and Crisped Greens (Ped Lon)

Fried Chicken - Gai Tod - from the Crystal Pool in Krabi

Fried Turmeric Chicken - Gai Tod Kamin - from Bai Fern in Mae Hong Son

(Fried) Eggplant Salad - Yam Makeua Yao - at Vientiane Kitchen in Bangkok

Fried Greens Salad at Kao Mook Restaurant in Mae Hong Son

Fried Naem Sour Sausage Slices in Crispy Taro Basket (Naem Tod)

Crunchy Taro Fritters Served with Sweet-and-Sour Dipping Sauce (Peuak Tod)

Crispy Fried Cha-Om Salad (Yum Cha-Om Krob)

Fried Soft-shell Crab with Fried Greens

Bitter Melon Salad - Yum Mara - with fried shallots & cashews

Roasted Eggplant Salad (Yum Makeua Yao)

Crispy Rice & Sour Sausage Salad (Yum Naem Kao Tod)

Crispy Fried Fish with Roasted Chilli Sauce

Frying Dough Balls in Sukhothai

Fried Rice Cake Snacks in Nakhon Si Thammarat

Fried Shrimp in Batter from Takua Pa

Fried Fish Skin in Ayuthaya

Fried insects at the market in Nakhon Pathom

Fried Naem Sour Sausage Slices (Naem Tawd)

Fried Fish Cakes - Tod Man Pla - at Don Wai Market

Fried Shrimp Cakes - Tod Man Goong - on Koh Poda in Krabi

Glazed Crispy Noodles - Mee Krob - from Kasma's Intermediate Thai Cooking Class

Crispy Shrimp Toast - Kanom Pang Na Goong - from Trang

Fried Won Ton with a sweet sauce from a restaurant in Ubon Ratchathani

Fried Fish Sausage from Kai Mook Restaurant in Mae Hong Son

Fried Bananas - Kluay Tod - from Mae Sa Resort

Fried Peanut Crunch (Tua Tod Paen)

Fried Foods thumbnail
Fried Whole Fish 1 thumbnail
Fried Whole Fish 2 thumbnail
Fish Appetizer thumbnail
Turmeric Fried Fish thumbnail
Fried Sour Fish thumbnail
Choo Chee Fish thumbnail
Fried Fish thumbnail
Fried Fish Curry thumbnail
Crispy Catfish Salad thumbnail
Fried Pork Leg thumbnail
Fried Pork Ribs thumbnail
Fried Pork Skin thumbnail
Crispy Fried Duck thumbnail
Fried Chicken thumbnail
Fried Turmeric Chicken thumbnail
Fried Eggplant Salad thumbnail
Fried Greens Salad thumbnail
Fried Sausage thumbnail
Taro Fritters thumbnail
Cha Om Salad thumbnail
Fried Crab thumbnail
Bitter Melon Salad thumbnail
Roasted Eggplant Salad thumbnail
Crispy Rice Salad thumbnail
Fried Fish thumbnail
Fried Dough thumbnail
Fried Rice Cake Snacks thumbnail
Fried Shrimp thumbnail
Fried Fish Skin thumbnail
Fried Insects thumbnail
Fried Naem Sausage thumbnail
Fish Cakes thumbnail
Shrimp Cakes thumbnail
Fried Noodles thumbnail
Shrimp Toast thumbnail
Fried Won Ton thumbnail
Fish Sausage thumbnail
Fried Bananas thumbnail
Fried Peanut Crunch thumbnail

Written by Michael Babcock, January 2014. The views of this blog are those of the author only. Any errors are his alone.

How to Fry a Crispy Fish Thai-style

Kasma Loha-unchit, Sunday, December 15th, 2013

One of the favorite ways to prepare fish in Thailand is to fry it until it is thoroughly crispy – head, tail, fins and all – but not greasy. To get it this way, the fish is fried unskinned in plenty of hot oil for longer than what is normally recommended in western cooking, so that it is not just cooked through and still moist with juices inside the flesh, but until it is completely dried through. When no moisture remains, oil molecules do not have any place to attach themselves to on the dried-out surface of the fish; as a result, the crisped fish is not heavy, soggy and oily. Fish fried this way does not lose its crispiness soon after it comes out of the oil from juices inside being sweated out, but remains crunchy crispy even after it cools.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Frying Fish

Frying fish, waving

Of course, the kind of oil used for frying the fish is important. It should be one that can be heated to and kept at high temperatures without burning and breaking down, such as peanut oil or palm oil. The oil should be heated very hot before adding the fish, so that it sears the outside of the fish and does not penetrate it. This also reduces the likelihood of the fish sticking to the pan and yields cooked meat that is more fluffy rather than dense and compacted.

To help the fish cook and crisp faster, make a series of slanted (45°) cuts about one-and-a-half inches apart through the thickness of the flesh to the level of the center bone on both sides of the fish; or score with a diagonal criss-cross pattern.

Scoring Fish

Scoring fish

Resting Fishes

Scored and warming fish

Make the cuts with the knife blade positioned at a 45° angle to the surface of the fish; the flesh overlaps the cuts so that when it shrinks with frying the bone is not exposed, giving a better presentation.

Coating Fish

Coating fish with tapioca starch

In brief, to deep-fry a fish, fill a wok about half full with oil, or enough to submerge at least two-thirds of the length of the fish, and heat over high heat until it is smoking hot. While waiting for the oil to heat, coat the fish thoroughly inside out with a thin layer of flour, preferably tapioca flour or starch, which sticks better to the fish, does not get washed out in the oil and contributes a light, crispy texture when fried. Tapioca starch also dries up the surfaces of the fish, eliminating splattering from the interaction of liquid and hot oil. [Note: in Thailand tapioca starch is seldom used. It is recommended for use here because it helps to keep the frying fish from making a mess with splatters.]

Holding the fish by the tail, gently slide it into the oil, letting go along the side of the wok as close to its surface as possible so that the oil doesn’t splash up on your hand – letting go too soon is more likely to hurt you.

Sliding Fish

Sliding fish 1

Sliding Fish

Sliding fish 2

If your stove is not a very hot one, the fish can be fried from start to finish over high or medium-high heat. For a very hot stove, reduce and fry at medium heat to keep the surface of the fish from burning before it is cooked and dried through.

Fish in Oil

Fish in oil

Ladling Oil

Ladling oil over the fish

While frying, occasionally tilt the wok from side to side, so that the head and tail get submerged and crisped along with the mid-section of the fish. This is easy to do if the wok is well-balanced on a wok ring; it is even possible to leave the wok tilted on its own in one position for a minute or two before shifting to another position (see Kasma’s blog Adapting the Wok to your Stove). Oil may also be ladled continuously over the fish, which will cut down on the time needed to fry the second side when the fish is turned over.

Turning Fish

Turning the fish over

When the first side is well-browned, well-crisped and dried through, nudge the wok spatula under the fish from its top edge and gently roll it over on its belly, taking care not to break any fins. Fry the second side the same way until it is as brown and crispy as the first side. It takes a few minutes less time than the first side. For a one-and-a-half pound whole fish, the first side usually takes twelve minutes to crisp while the second side about eight minutes. For smaller or flatter fish, like pompano and white perch, less time is required.

Fried Fish

Two (other) fried fish draining

When the fish is thoroughly crisped, again nudge the wok spatula under it from its top edge. Tilt it up against the side of the wok above the oil for a few seconds to allow the oil to drain from the body cavity. Then lift it out onto a wire rack. Let drain and cool a few minutes before transferring to a serving platter.

Not all fish should be so thoroughly fried and crisped as described. Use soft- to medium-firm-flesh fish, no larger than two pounds and preferably varieties with thin fins and tails that crisp up nicely for crunching on. Delicious fried this way are snapper, rock cod, grouper, catfish, pompano, white perch, tongue sole and other small and flat fish. Because of their size, smelts, fresh anchovies and whole sand dabs can be fried completely immersed in oil. Firm, meaty fish with thick, dense flesh are not good fried so long and should only be lightly crisped to retain some juices – cut down on the frying time by one-third to one-half.

The wok is a very safe utensil to use for deep-frying, so if you are afraid to fry fish in such a large quantity of oil, read the my article Using Your Work. The deliciously crunchy results produced are worth the try.


If you’d like to see a slideshow of Kasma making Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prik) from start to finish, check out Michael’s Blog on Kasma’s Intermediate Class #1. Or, come take Kasma’s Thai cooking classes.


Slideshow – Some Crispy Fried Fish Dishes

I would hate to estimate how many different fried fishes there are in Thailand. This slide show is limited to a dozen dishes that we’ve come across on trips. It should begin to hint at the variety of delicious dishes that are available.

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Fried Lemongrass Fish
Fried Snakehead Fish
Fried Fish 1
Fried Fish 2
Fried Fish 3
Fried Fish 4
Fried Fish 5
Turmeric Fried Fish 1
Turmeric Fried Fish 2
Fried Sour Fish
Fried Fish 6
Frying Fish

Fried Lemongrass Fish from a restaurant in Chiang Mai

Fried Snakehead Fish from Bai Fern Restaurant in Mae Hong Son

Another fried fish dish from Chiang Mai

Three Flavored Fried Fish from Pranburi

A fried fish dish in sauce from Sukhothai

Fried fish dish with a spicy sauce made with dried chillies

Fried fish dish buried in sauce at Comedara Restaurant in Chiang Mai

Turmeric Fried Catfish from Krabi

Turmeric Fried fish made with smaller sized fish

Fried Pla Som - sour fish -soured and fried in pieces

Smaller fish pieces fried with fish sauce from Ayuthaya

This red snapper in hot oil seems to be waving good bye

Fried Lemongrass Fish thumbnail
Fried Snakehead Fish thumbnail
Fried Fish 1 thumbnail
Fried Fish 2 thumbnail
Fried Fish 3 thumbnail
Fried Fish 4 thumbnail
Fried Fish 5 thumbnail
Turmeric Fried Fish 1 thumbnail
Turmeric Fried Fish 2 thumbnail
Fried Sour Fish thumbnail
Fried Fish 6 thumbnail
Frying Fish thumbnail

Note: A version of this blog originally appeared on pages 97 & 98 of Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood, published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster. All text is Copyright © 2000 & 2013 Kasma Loha-unchit.

All photographs are Copyright © 2013 Michael Babcock or Kasma Loha-unchit


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, 2000 & 2013

Grilling Seafood in Thai Cooking

Kasma Loha-unchit, Sunday, September 1st, 2013

The hot tropical climate of Thailand lends itself to outdoor cooking. Grilling (in Thai – yang or pow) is one of the methods used in Thai cuisine. This blog talks a bit about how it is used in cooking seafood (taken from Kasma’s book, Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood).

Grilling Fish

Grilling fish in Nong Kai

Fish on Grill

Fish on the Grill in Nong Kai

(Click images to see larger version.)

With charcoal a main source of cooking fuel until recent times, grilling has emerged as one of the most popular ways of cooking. No restaurant is complete without a fired-up grill and no marketplace can exist without a vendor grilling something or another – whether this be catfish on a stick, or skewered meat balls.

Seafood to Grill

Seafood to grill

Restaurant Grilling

Grilling at a restaurant

Along the coast near the capital city, strings of open-air talay pow (“grilled seafood”) restaurants line the beaches, serving up delectable, super-fresh seafood caught the same day. Just about every kind of seafood is tossed on the charcoal grill; some are served simply with a spicy dipping sauce while others find their way into salads, curries and nameless other dishes. The two pictures above were taken at the night market in the coastal city of Hua Hin.

Fish on Grill

Fish grilling on a kettle BBQ

Grilling is always done over real wood coals; sometimes coconut husks and dried palm fronds are thrown in to produce extra smoke, giving the grilled foods a marvelous smoky aroma. To re-create the delectable flavors of Thai-style grilled foods, a charcoal grill or barbecue kettle is essential, along with long-handled spatulas, tongs and basting brushes as cooking aids. Grilling on a gas grill basically produces similar results as broiling, with a subsequent loss of flavor, unless pieces of charcoal or wood chips are also used.

Grilling Basket

Catfish in a grilling basket

Basket on Grill

Using the grilling basket

Seafood may be grilled directly on the charcoal grill, or in a wire cage with handle – also called grilling basket or hinged grill. This device comes round, square, rectangular or fish-shaped and comprises of two wire racks hinged together on one side to hold food between them. The grilling basket is especially useful for grilling tender whole fish with skin still attached; not only does it make turning easy, it keeps the fragile fish from breaking apart should the skin stick to the charcoal grill.

Grilling Bass

Bass grilled in banana leaves

Seafood is also wrapped in banana leaves before placing on the grill. Although the smoky dimension is reduced, the leaves enhance with their own special fragrance, especially if they are lightly charred. The seafood is usually marinated with spices before being wrapped and essentially gets steamed in its own juices. For a smokier flavor, partially unwrap, or cut an opening on the top of the leaf packet, towards the last few minutes of cooking.


Slideshow – A Few Finished Grilled Seafood Dishes from Kasma’s Classes

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Salt-Encrusted Fish
Catfish with Sadao
Shrimp Satay
Grilled Striped Bass 1
Grilled Striped Bass 2

Charcoal-Grilled Salt-Encrusted Fish Stuffed with Crushed Herbs, Served with Hot Thai Chilli-Lime Sauce (Bplah Yad Sai Samunplai Pao)

Charcoal-Grilled Catfish, "Sweet Fish Sauce" and Sadao or Neem Leaves (Sadao Nahm Bplah Wahn Bplah Doog Yahng)

Shrimp Satay (Sateh Goong)

Charcoal-Roasted Striped Bass in Banana Leaf (Bplah Gkapong Pow)

Charcoal-Roasted Striped Bass in Banana Leaf (Bplah Gkapong Pow)

Salt-Encrusted Fish thumbnail
Catfish with Sadao thumbnail
Shrimp Satay thumbnail
Grilled Striped Bass 1 thumbnail
Grilled Striped Bass 2 thumbnail

Here are some other articles on different methods used in Thai cooking.


Note: This blog originally appeared on page 79 of Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood, published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster. All text is Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit.

All photographs are Copyright © 2011, 2012 & 2013 Kasma Loha-unchit

Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, 2000

Salted Mackerel – Pla Kem

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Among highly salted fish, my personal favorite is salted mackerel – pla kem. If you like preserved anchovies, you will most likely fall for salted mackerel, too.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Salted Mackerel 1

Vacuum-packed salted mackerel

Salted Mackerel 2

More vacuum-packed salted mackerel

Look for narrow oval steaks of salted king mackerel either vacuum-packed in plastic and either frozen or in a refrigerator, or stuffed in glass jars covered with oil. Pan-fry in a small amount of oil for a couple of minutes on both sides until well-browned and flaky. Drain from oil and sprinkle with thinly sliced shallots, thin rounds of Thai chillies and fresh lime juice. Because it is very salty, only a small bit of the mackerel is mixed and eaten with plain steamed rice. My mother and I share a fondness for salted mackerel and just a tiny piece can help us polish up a big pot of rice, feeling very satisfied!

Salted Mackerel

Salted mackerel

Salted mackerel is also used as a flavoring ingredient, such as in the Chinese steamed chopped pork with salted fish. Use it as you would salted anchovies. It makes a particularly tasty flavoring for stir-fried Asian broccoli, or broccoli rabe (see recipe below). Flake the flesh of pan-fried salted mackerel and toss in with the greens. Instead of salted mackerel, small pieces of fried, dried salted mudfish may also be used.

When working with any kind of dried and salted fish, beware of the strong fishy odors likely to be released during cooking, especially frying. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the kitchen to disperse the lingering fumes.


Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel (Ka-nah Pla Kem)
Recipe by Kasma Loha-unchit

Prepared Asian Broccoli

Prepared Asian broccoli and garlic

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Asian or Chinese broccoli (ka-nah)
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 small piece (about 2 oz.) salted mackerel (pla kem)
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3-4 Tbs. Thai oyster sauce
  • 2-3 tsp. fish sauce (nam pla), to taste

Method

Starting from the stem-end, cut the Asian broccoli at a very sharp slanted angle 1/2 inch apart to make pieces about 1 1/2 inches long. Peel the bottom of the larger, more fibrous stems before cutting. For pieces with leaves attached, cut the leaves into 2-inch segments. Do not make it a point to detach the leaves from the stems; there should be pieces of stem with some leaf attached. Keep the pieces from the bottom half of the stems separate from the more leafy upper half.

Frying Mackerel

Frying salted mackerel in oil

Fried Salted Mackerel

Fried salted mackerel

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Fry the salted mackerel in the oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until well-browned. Remove from wok.

Stir-Frying

Stir-frying the Asian broccoli

Asian Broccoli Cooking

Continuing to stir-fry

Increase heat to high and swirl in the remaining oil. When it is smoking hot, add the chopped garlic, stir for 10-15 seconds, then toss in the bottom stem pieces. Stir-fry half to one minute before adding the leafy pieces. Continue to stir-fry until the leaves have mostly wilted. Sprinkle with oyster sauce and 1 tsp. of fish sauce, stir and mix well.

Broken Salted Mackerel

Salted mackerel in chunks

Adding Salted Mackerel

Adding salted mackerel to the stir-fry

Break the mackerel into small chunks and toss in with the vegetable.

Stir-fry a little while longer until the broccoli is tender, but still crisp, and a vibrant green color. Taste and add more fish sauce as needed to the desired saltiness. Stir well and transfer to a serving dish.

Serves 6 with rice and other dishes in a shared family-style meal.

Finished Dish

Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel

Close-up of Dish

The finished dish, up close

Notes and Pointers:

A very nutritious bitter green vegetable readily available from most Oriental produce markets, Asian or Chinese broccoli has insignificant flower buds and is prized for its deep green leaves and firm, crisp stems.

Select a bunch with small tender stems. If the stems are large, the bottom half may need to be peeled to remove the tough fibers. Cutting the stems at a very sharp slanted angle helps break up the fibers that run the length of the stalks, giving them a more tender texture. The sauce can also penetrate the vegetable better through the longer cut that exposes the interior of the stems.


Slideshow on Salted Mackerel

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Salted Mackerel 1
Salted Mackerel 2
Salted Mackerel
Prepared Asian Broccoli
Frying Mackerel
Fried Salted Mackerel
Stir-Frying
Asian Broccoli Cooking
Broken Salted Mackerel
Adding Salted Mackerel
Finished Dish
Close-up of Dish

Salted mackerel in a vacuum-pack, one variety

More vacuum-packed salted mackerel

Salted mackerel, removed from the package

Asian broccoli, cut at a slanted angle, plus chopped garlic

Frying salted mackerel in peanut oil until brown

Fried salted mackerel, browned and ready for the next step

Stir-frying the Asian broccoli and garlic

Continuing to stir-fry the Asian broccoli and garlic

The salted mackerel is broken into small chunks

Adding the chunks of salted mackerel to the stir-fry

Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel (Ka-nah Pla Kem)

A close up of Asian Broccoli with Salted Mackerel (Ka-nah Pla Kem)

Salted Mackerel 1 thumbnail
Salted Mackerel 2 thumbnail
Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Prepared Asian Broccoli thumbnail
Frying Mackerel thumbnail
Fried Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Stir-Frying thumbnail
Asian Broccoli Cooking thumbnail
Broken Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Adding Salted Mackerel thumbnail
Finished Dish thumbnail
Close-up of Dish thumbnail

Note: This blog originally appeared on pages 42 to 43 of Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood, published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster. All text is Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit.

All photographs are Copyright © 2011 & 2013 Kasma Loha-unchit


Written By Kasma Loha-unchit, 2000

Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class #1

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class, an evening series of 4 classes, continues on from where her 4-session Beginning Thai Cooking Series leaves off. Once she’s introduced students to the basics (including how to harmonize flavors to create Thai tastes), it’s time to learn more Thai cooking techniques, ingredients and recipes.

Explaining Recipes

Kasma going over recipes

I repeated the Beginning Thai Cooking Series in October of 2011 and was surprised at how much new information I gleaned from repeating the class. I also remembered just how much fun the classes are. This April, I repeated Kasma’s Intermediate Thai Cooking Class. This is my blog on class #1.

(Click images to see larger version.)

As with the Beginning series, class starts with Kasma going over the recipes. Much less time is needed for this in the Intermediate Series because so many of the main ingredients were covered in the Beginning Series. In the Intermediate Class there are still new ingredients, which need to be covered more extensively, and there are new cooking techniques to be introduced as well. For instance, when introducing an ingredient such as mussels, Kasma talks about the various kinds available and which are the best ones to use for a particular recipe, such as this evening’s Spicy Mussel Salad

Mussels

Mussels for the salad

The classes are filled with tips that make recipes come out better. For instance, Many recipes for Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Ka Gai) have you dump all the coconut milk in a pan and bring it to a boil; Kasma explains that when boiled, coconut milk has a tendency to curdle, so she begins the recipe using water or mild chicken broth and adds the coconut milk towards the end, right before she balances all the flavors.

Kasma imparted more inside knowledge when talking about the preparing the noodles for frying for the Mee Krob (Glazed Crispy Noodles). Rather than soaking the noodles, which would leave them soggy, she has the students rinse the noodles in cold tap water, drain in a colander and set aside for 30 to 60 minutes. This allows the noodles to absorb some water and soften while then allowing the surface to dry out so that you won’t get splattering when you put the noodles in the hot oil to fry. She explains that if you fry the noodles dry, they puff up more, which is undesirable in this recipe. As always, she shows the students the best brand available locally to use.

Frying Noodles

Frying noodles

The first intermediate class introduces two ingredients that are new to the students. Pickled garlic is used in the Crispy Fried Noodles and crispy fried shallots are used in the Spicy Mussel Salad. Kasma talks about what to look for when buying these ingredients, what brand of the fried shallots (often labelled “Fried Onions”) are best (see Kasma’s Favorite Brands) and how to make your own crispy shallots, should you be so inclined.

This class introduces methods for deep frying, both for the Mee Krob - Glazed Crispy Noodles – and for the Pla Rad Prik – Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce. I have long been an admirer of the way that Thais fry things: the fried foods in Thailand seldom taste greasy at all and their fried fish is always fried to a delightfully crispy and crunchy state that is both fun to eat and allows you to eat most of the fish. This class also has deep-fried noodles, also well-fried and not very greasy.

Making Noodles

Making Mee Krob

So I was somewhat startled to read in a cookbook by a famous Thai chef that “. . .Thais are not particularly good at deep-frying, opting to cook any piece of meat as much as possible – even fish.” He claims this comes from fear of worms from fresh-water fish. All the Thai people I know love crispy-fried fish: they cook it that way because they like it that way – they like the texture, it is non-greasy, it  tastes good and eats well.  I guess he’s never been to the North or the Northeast where they like to eat raw meat salads – odd behavior if they’re afraid of parasites.

Kasma fries her fish in her trusty 16-inch round-bottomed spun-steel wok: it’s the perfect piece of cookware for deep-frying. This is a great class for students who are afraid to fry – Kasma shows how to do it easily and safely.

Chopping

Students prepping ingredients

As with all classes, Kasma tells the students which local markets typically carry any specialty ingredients, such as fresh, whole fish (not readily available in most western supermarkets) or garlic chives (used in the Crispy Fried Noodles. She goes into which recipes can be prepared ahead of time and which parts of recipes can be done in advance to make the final assembly easier without losing and freshness or flavor.

In this class Kasma also goes over how to pick out a fresh, whole fish; it is something that many students have never done or even considered doing before. She gives 5 pointers (such as looking at the over-all luster of the fish and how the eyes and gills should appear) that will help even the novice choose a fresh fish. You can read Kasma’s article Selecting a Fresh Fish, excerpted from her Dancing Shrimp cookbook.

Mixing Ingredients

Mixing Ingredients

Making Sauce

Student making Mee Krob sauce

After the recipes are explained, the students divide up into groups: Kasma assigns a certain number of people for each recipe. Once the ingredients are prepped, all the students watch the members of the team do the cooking. When appropriate, as in frying a whole fish, Kasma starts the cooking process so that she can show how a particular technique is done: after that, the team members do the cooking. Kasma also oversees the final balancing process for the recipes: one of the great strengths of her classes is learning how the various ingredients interact to create a harmony of Thai flavors.

Of course, the best part of the evening is sitting down to eat a Thai feast at the end of class.

Eating Dinner

Eating dinner, the best part of class!

After dinner, everyone helps clean up before going home.


Menu – Intermediate Thai Cooking Class Series #1

Mee Krob (Glazed Crispy Noodles)

Noodles

Mee Krob Noodles

This is a noodle dish that is almost always too sweet at the local Thai restaurants. Kasma’s version is crispy, not greasy at all (despite the deep-fried noodles) and flavorful, with just a hint of sweetness. It could almost be called a fried salad, served as it is with bean sprouts and garlic chives. It’s a dish that must be eaten within an hour of cooking, otherwise it will turn somewhat soggy and uninteresting.

Chicken Coconut Soup with Galanga (Tom Ka Gai)

Soup

Chicken Coconut Soup

This is one of two soups that is found at virtually every Thai restaurant outside of Thailand. (The other is Hot & Sour Prawn Soup – Tom Yum Goong.) This, also, is a dish that I’ve been disappointed in when ordering out in the U.S. – too sweet, too rich: Kasma’s version is somewhat lighter with a bit of sour flavor. I once read a Westerner who claimed that this soup was just “Tom Yum Soup with Coconut.” This is absolutely not true. The main herbal flavor in a Tom Ka soup is galanga, with lemon grass in the supporting capacity: with Tom Yum soups, it’s just the opposite – the galanga supports the lemongrass.

You can try out Kasma’s variation on this recipe: Coconut Seafood Soup with Galanga (Tom Ka Talay)

Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prik)

Fried Fish

Crispy Fried Whole Fish

(See slideshow below.)

This is a recipe that is very common in Thailand: on Kasma’s trips we’ll usually eat it at least a couple of times. I was so excited the first time I made this dish by myself (after I first took the Intermediate Series in 1992) – it looked just like the dishes in Thailand! However, in Thailand I often find it too sweet for my taste: in Kasma’s version the sauce is equally sour and salty with the sweetness (from palm sugar) in the background.

The best parts to eat of the fish are the crispy-crunchy parts. My personal favorite is the head: it’s full of interesting crunchy bits interspersed with softer textures. Before I met Kasma I would never have eaten a fish head: now I usually join this class at meal time because often no one in class knows how to eat the head – I like to help out.

Fish and seafood are an integral and important part of the Thai diet. See Kasma’s article The Thai Fish-Eating Tradition.

Spicy Mussel Salad with Aromatic Herbs and Crisped Shallots and Garlic (Yum Hoi Malaeng Poo)

Mussel Salad

Spicy Mussel Salad

Yum salads are a group of salads that are found all over Thailand and found all too seldom here in the U.S. They are sour and spicy-hot with some saltiness and sweetness: the level of sweetness will vary from one salad to the next, depending on the main ingredient, so it’s not really possible to give a generic yum dressing/sauce (although many cookbook authors do). Kasma’s dressing for this salad is interesting in that it uses three different ingredients for sour flavors – white vinegar, lime juice and tamarind juice: each provides a different layer of flavor. Sugar is used here to balance the flavors and to intensify the sourness: Kasma shows you how to do this without adding too much sweetness. (Check out Kasma’s Exercise in Balancing Flavors.)

Salad Ingredients

Mixing Mussel Salad

This dish is also an opportunity for Kasma to discuss the use of chillies in recipes. At the time of the year of this class (April), many of the chillies we get here in the San Francisco Bay Area come from South or Central America; because of the climate, they tend to be very hot. As chillies grown in California become available, the number of chillies may need to be adjusted: initially, the local chillies will be much milder. This is the sort of information that you get in Kasma’s classes: you’ll not commonly find it in Thai cookbooks, which usually give a specific number of chillies in a dish without going into how you may need to modify that number to get the level of heat the dish (or your tastebuds) require.


Slideshow – Crispy Fried Whole Fish

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Scoring Fish
Resting Fishes
Coating Fish
Coated Fish
Holding Fish
Sliding Fish
Fish in Oil
Ladling Oil
Student Cooking
Turning Fish
Frying Paste
Fried Fish
Ladling Sauce
Fried Whole Fish
Fish Close-up

Scoring the whole fish

Bringing the whole fish to room temperature

Coating the fish with tapioca flour prior to frying

This fish, coated with tapioca flour, is ready to fry

Kasma is just about to slide the fish into the hot oil

Sliding the fish into the hot oil in the wok

The fish's fin is waving from the hot oil

Hot oil is ladled over the fish so it will fry evenly

One of the students takes over ladling the hot oil over the fish

Kasma demonstrates how to turn the fish over in the wok

Frying the chilli-tamarind sauce for the fish

This crispy-fried fish is ready for the chilli-tamarind sauce

Ladling the chilli-tamarind sauce over the fish

Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prik) - ready to eat

Close-up of Crispy Fried Whole Fish Topped with Chilli-Tamarind Sauce (Pla Rad Prik)

Scoring Fish thumbnail
Resting Fishes thumbnail
Coating Fish thumbnail
Coated Fish thumbnail
Holding Fish thumbnail
Sliding Fish thumbnail
Fish in Oil thumbnail
Ladling Oil thumbnail
Student Cooking thumbnail
Turning Fish thumbnail
Frying Paste thumbnail
Fried Fish thumbnail
Ladling Sauce thumbnail
Fried Whole Fish thumbnail
Fish Close-up thumbnail

Here are the next Intermediate Class Blogs:

I’ve already blogged on Kasma’s Beginning Thai Cooking Series:


You can find out all the necessary details about class times, dates and policies on our website.


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2013

Hua Hin Morning Market

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Chatchai Market in Hua Hin (also transliterated as Chat Chai), is well worth a visit. Whenever we head to the south of Thailand, on our own or during one of Kasma’s small-group tours to Thailand, we always plan to stop.

An Aisle in Hua Hin Market

An interior view of the market

The market is located off the main highway, highway 4, also called Thanon Phetkasem (Phetkasem Street); it’s on the right as you head south. The southernmost boundary of the market is Thanon Dechanuchit (Dechanuchit Street). The market is mostly indoors, with a little spillage to the street.

This is mainly a market for locals, featuring fresh ingredients of all kinds: vegetables, fruit, fresh-pressed coconut milk, meats, fowl and seafood. It also includes stalls with dried ingredients (dried shrimp, etc.) and prepared food. On the north end there are a number of shops catering more to the many fahrang (Caucasian) tourists and selling beach attire, colorful shirts, straw mats for the beach and so on.

(Click images to see larger version. There’s a slideshow of all images in the blog plus more at the bottom of the page.)

We go largely just to enjoy the lively, colorful display of fresh food.

Inside Hua Hin Market

Inside Hua Hin Market

Different markets throughout Thailand have different feels. This market is one of the most bustling markets we go to: the aisles are a bit narrow and it seems as if there is always someone wanting to get past you in the cramped quarters. Often you’ll have to scrunch over to one side to allow a motorcycle (often making a delivery, the item in a box on the back of the motorcycle) to edge past you. So be prepared to be jostled and don’t block the aisle too badly when you take photographs!

I always look forward to one of the aisles at the market where you find all kinds of dried foods; for years I’ve tried to reproduce the wonderful palette of oranges and reds created by the stacks of dried shrimps, vegetables and fruits.

Dried Food Stall

Colorful dried shrimp and more

Various Dried Foods

Close-up of dried foods

Fish Vendors

Fish vendors

When I think of Hua Hin Market, one thing that I always think of is fresh seafood. Hua Hin is right on the coast and the market naturally contains a whole section with many seafood vendors. The aisles in this section can be a bit treacherous: they are often very damp and often a bit slimy from water used to clean and refresh the seafood. Tread carefully! Usually a vendor will specialize in one thing or another: fresh fish, shrimp, squid or crabs, for instance. In addition to the fresh seafood, you’ll find all kinds of dried fish, squid and shrimp.
Whole Fish For Sale

Whole fish for sale

Dried Mackerel

Dried mackerel in baskets

One item that we always look for here is jackfruit (kanoon or kanun); it always seems to be good from this market. When you visit Thailand you really must try jack fruit: it has a subtle, delicious flavor unlike nearly any other fruit. It’s found in many markets already cut out of its matrix and ready to eat: something you appreciate much more if you’ve ever had to prepare it yourself! (For more pictures of this fruit and to get a sense of why it’s a luxury to get it read to eat, see the article on She Simmers – How to Prepare a Jackfruit)

Preparing Jackfruit

Preparing jackfruit for sale

Jackfruit Fruit

Jackfruit fruit, ready to eat

As befits a local market, there are a large number of vendors with fresh vegetables, ranging from large stalls with just about everything, to small vendors on a straw mat on the ground with just a few items to offer. As usual, you’ll find any vegetable you could desire for cooking Thai food, including items that we would love to be able to buy in the U.S., such as “rhizome” (krachai) and fresh, green peppercorns. In addition, you’ll find varieties of vegetables that are very different from what you’ll find back home. One example is the long, green eggplant (makeua yao) that is so delicious when roasted; you’ll even find it here already roasted – all you need to do is take it home and easily finish a delicious Roasted Eggplant Salad (Yum Makeua You).

Vegetables for Sale

Vegetables for sale

Roasted Green Eggplants

Roasted green eggplants


Hua Hin Municipal Market Slide Show

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.
Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Inside Hua Hin Market
An Aisle in Hua Hin Market
Dried Food Stall
Various Dried Foods
More Dried Shrimp
Fish Vendors
Whole Fish For Sale
Prawns For Sale
Fresh Crabs
Dried Mackerel
Dried Fish
Preparing Jackfruit
Jackfruit Fruit
Yellow Mangoes
Papayas
Vegetables for Sale
Green Peppercorns
Roasted Green Eggplants
Palm Sugar
Dried Chilli Paste
Fresh Chilli Sauces
Butcher Stalls
Egg Vendor
Making Coconut Milk
Meat on Sticks
Grilled Fish Vendor
Frying Fish Cakes
Miang Kam to Go
Donut Holes
Flower Stall

One of the aisles at Hua Hin Market; notice the motor scooter in back.

Here's a view of Hua Hin Market from the inside.

There are numerous stalls selling dried shrimp and the like.

Here are several kinds of dried foods, including colorfully orange dried shrimp, to the right.

Here are 4 different dried shrimps, packaged to sell.

Hua Hin is on the coast and the market features numerous vendors of extremely fresh seafood.

Here's one vendor's selection of whole, fresh fish.

Fresh prawns (shrimp) such as these are widely available.

Other vendors offer fresh crabs, such as these.

This dried mackerel (pla too) is one of Thailand's favorite fishes; here it's sold in baskets, ready for steaming or frying.

Other kinds of dried fish are artfully arranged in an aesthetic swirl.

Hua Hin market always seems to have delicious jackfruit; here a vendor separates the fruit to sell.

Here's the fruit of the jackfruit, removed from the sticky matrix and ready to eat.

Of course, there's all kinds of other fruits as well, such as these sweet, yellow mangoes.

Here are orange and green papayas.

Naturally, there are numerous vendors with fresh vegetables; these are artfully displayed indeed.

Thai markets in general have a wealth of exotic ingredients hard to find back in the U.S., such as these fresh, green peppercorns.

The market also offers cooked ingredients that can be taken home and incorporated into a dish, such as these roast green eggplants.

Hua Hin market offers any ingredient you need to cook Thai food. Here are plastic bags of soft, easy-to-use palm sugar.

The market also offers fresh-made chilli pastes and sauces, providing an easy way to make an easy, delicious dish.

Here are some more spicy sauces.

Here's an inner aisle with several butchers offering fresh meat.

This woman offers chicken and duck eggs and also salted duck eggs. You select the eggs and take them home in a plastic bag.

Here a woman is making extracting fresh coconut milk from the flesh of coconuts; notice it running into the front pink bucket.

Of course, there's lots of pre-made food. This vendor is out on the street and offers various meats on sticks, such as satay and sausages.

Here's a grilled fish vendor with a marvelous smile.

Here's a close-up of fish or shrimp cakes fried in oil in a wok.

There's also many different pre-made foods, such as these packages of miang kam.

No market is complete without a complete selection of kanom (snacks), both Thai and, as we see here with these "donut holes," western.

Every Thai market has at least one vendor with colorful flowers; here we also see refreshing young coconut, ready to drink.

Inside Hua Hin Market thumbnail
An Aisle in Hua Hin Market thumbnail
Dried Food Stall thumbnail
Various Dried Foods thumbnail
More Dried Shrimp thumbnail
Fish Vendors thumbnail
Whole Fish For Sale thumbnail
Prawns For Sale thumbnail
Fresh Crabs thumbnail
Dried Mackerel thumbnail
Dried Fish thumbnail
Preparing Jackfruit thumbnail
Jackfruit Fruit thumbnail
Yellow Mangoes thumbnail
Papayas thumbnail
Vegetables for Sale thumbnail
Green Peppercorns thumbnail
Roasted Green Eggplants thumbnail
Palm Sugar thumbnail
Dried Chilli Paste thumbnail
Fresh Chilli Sauces thumbnail
Butcher Stalls thumbnail
Egg Vendor thumbnail
Making Coconut Milk thumbnail
Meat on Sticks thumbnail
Grilled Fish Vendor thumbnail
Frying Fish Cakes thumbnail
Miang Kam to Go thumbnail
Donut Holes thumbnail
Flower Stall thumbnail

Two Previous Blogs on Hua Hin

Five Previous Blogs on Thai Markets


Written by Michael Babcock, September 2011