Today is my fish day. Since I discovered pla phao (ปลาเผา), grilled fish in salt, I have never had any doubts on how I would like my fish done.
Normally there are two kinds of fish cooked this way – pla nin (ปลานิล) and pla taptim (ปลาทับทิม). These are Nile tilapias, the first one is its ordinary type with grey scales, and the second one is a Thai hybrid called ‘ruby tilapia’ for its pinkish colour.
Pla nin is normally cheaper – expect to pay from THB130 to THB180 for a good-sized fish good for two; pla taptim costs from THB180 to THB240 and its meat is considered more delicate and tender.
Actually both white and pink species are incredibly tasty, juicy and succulent thanks to a thick salt crust covering the whole fish. Inside fish is stuffed with lemongrass and sometimes kaffir lime leaves which add a specific aroma. What is especially appealing about tilapia, is that it does not have too many bones, well, at least not so many as my another favourite, fresh water carp.
Fish comes with at least two types of sauces (hot seafood garlic sauce and sweet nutty sauce), a generous bunch of greens (from lettuce to Thai basil leaves) and a portion of noodles. Noodles are usually sen khao (white thin rice noodles), but in some places sen mee (rice vermicelli) is served.
I used to eat grilled fish in salt at the Thepprasit night market when there was a shop with loud rock music, but it has recently moved somewhere and now I buy pla phao in the Second Jomtien night market from the stalls close to Kiss Food and Drinks (fish is great) or in the market near Wat Sutthawat in Soi Noen Plap Wan (I really love their sauces!).
And yes, pla phao pairs perfectly with Thai beer. Bon Appétit!
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