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How to make Pla Ra (Padaek)

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.

Pla Ra 1

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.

Pla Ra 2

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.

Pla Ra 5

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.

Pla Ra 8

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.

Pla Ra 3

In a large pan, toast raw sticky rice on medium-low heat until brown.

Pla Ra 4

Let the rice cool and roughly grind it in food processor.

Pla Ra 6

In a clean tray or a large bowl, mix fish, salt and toasted rice.

Pla Ra 7

Massage the salt and toasted rice into the fish.

Pla Ra 9

Store the fish in an airtight jar.

Pla Ra 10

Press the mixture down tightly. Store it in a cool dry place for 3 to 6 months or upto a year.

Pla Ra 11

Boil Pla Ra before use.


5 comments to How to make Pla Ra (Padaek)

  • Ping~The Chic Laotian

    Quite impressive padaek making Tes and your khun Mae. And it looks really easy. I never attempt to make this even though I’m from southern Laos family, where that’s the best padaek comes from. Anyway, my sister in law gave me a big jar last week when I visited. Saap!

    • Tes

      Thanks Ping 🙂 Now I can’t wait for it to be ready. I have to resist the temptation of taking it out of the jar before the right time hahaha. I wanna get some Padaek from Laos, too. One of my cousin told me it’s super yummy 🙂

  • ThaiCookingChef

    Hello, you seem educated but don’t know that you should not eat uncooked Plara ? Or do you cook it later when it’s done ?
    Thank you for the post ! Great to find this in English !

    • Tes

      In the olden days, Pla Ra was not cooked at all before using which like you said, was not the most hygienic and safe thing to do. So yes, I normally boil it first before using in the dishes. Also when boiling, you probably need to add more water to dilute the concentration when you wanna use it in a dish like Som Tam. And yes, it’s always recommended to cook it through.

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