Although Pla Ra or Padaek is the most essential part of my food, I have never attempted to make it at home until now. Pla Ra is fermented fish used in Thai Northeastern Cuisine. It is used as seasoning sauce. Pla Ra has a very strong scent that is not easy to get used to at first. But in order to truly enjoy the rustic dishes of Isaan food, this pungent sauce cannot be omitted from the cooking.
Unlike the regular fish sauce that is usually made with anchovies or other sea fish, Pla Ra is made with fresh water fish, giving it a strong earthy punch. The reason I have never tried making Pla Ra at home is because the procedure of making this can be very messy and intimidating. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle the fish properly, and that would make the whole thing go in to waste and super stink.
Luckily, now that my mom comes to stay with us in India, she shows me how easy it is to make Pla Ra. Here is definitely a fancy version of doing it. Usually Pla Ra is made with mixed whole fresh water fish. My mom fillet and slice the fish as she thinks it is easier to handle and eat. You must use beautiful fresh fish to make Pla Ra. The fresher, the better.
There are simply 3 ingredients used in Pla Ra; fresh water fish, sea salt and toasted sticky rice. The ingredients are mixed together. It’s important to massage the mixture until salt and toasted rice cover every pieces of the fish.
Now we can keep the fish in an airtight jar and ferment it for many months to come. It can take 3 months or about a year to be ready. We have to keep checking that the fish is well preserved and the liquid from the fermenting process filled in the jarNow I can’t wait to taste it. It will goes wonderfully in papaya salad or Laos style stews. I will keep you posted on how my Pla Ra looks like. I know it will be amazing!
Pla Ra (Padaek)
3 kg fresh water fish
1 cup raw sticky rice
1 ½ cup sea salt
Clean, gut, fillet and slice the fish and keep aside.
In a large pan, toast raw sticky rice on medium-low heat until brown.
Let the rice cool and roughly grind it in food processor.
In a clean tray or a large bowl, mix fish, salt and toasted rice.
Massage the salt and toasted rice into the fish.
Store the fish in an airtight jar.
Press the mixture down tightly. Store it in a cool dry place for 3 to 6 months or upto a year.
Boil Pla Ra before use.