Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thai Crispy Fish Salad



To me this dish sort of resembles "laab" or "larb" except for a few different ingredients and that the fish is fried. It is a good-tasting salad; I just hate to deep fry, but I gave it a try anyway. I probably over chopped the fish with the food processor because when I fried it, it didn't turn out like I thought it would. The fish crumbles were a little too crumbly for me, so I made fish balls with the remainign fish, and actually liked it better that way. I would also recommend using the full tablespoon of salt as recommended. I initially thought one tablespoon of salt was too much and only used about one teaspoon, but one tablespoon is necessary as too little salt may disappear between baking and deep frying. I usually follow recipes to the core and then make changes later to my liking, but I've been afraid to do so ever since I tried this one Laotian recipe and I almost threw up from it. This dish is definitely not gross IMO, otherwise I wouldn't post it. This salad can be served with fresh green mangoes and I know it would taste really good along with the other ingredients. I didn't have any turmeric on hand, and the dressing tasted fine without it.

Serves 4

Method:

Dressing
1 lemon grass stalk, white part only, roughly chopped
4 Thai chillies
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp palm sugar
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

10 oz skinless white fish fillets (traditionally catfish is used in Thai, but I used Tilapia this time)
1 tbsp sea salt
peanut oil, for deep frying
3 tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes, each cut into 4 or 6 wedges
2 Asian shallots
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
16-24 mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

1. To make dressing, use a pestle and mortar or food processor to pound or blend the lemon grass, chillies and garlic to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and turmeric. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pat dry the fish fillets, then toss them in the sea salt. Place them on a rack in a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, then transfer to a food processor and chop until the fish resembles large breadcrumbs (or fluff fish with a fork).

3. Half fill a wok with oil and heat over high heat. Drop a small piece of fish into the oil. If it sizzles immediately, the fish is ready. Drop a large handful of the chopped fish into the hot oil. The fish will puff up and turn crisp. Cook for 30 seconds and carefully stir a little. Cook for another 30 seconds until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat to cook all the fish.

4. Put the tomatoes, shallots, red onion, cilantro, mint and peanuts in a bowl with about half of the dressing. Transfer the salad to a serving plate. Break the fish into smaller pieces if you wish and place on the salad. To ensure that the fish stays crispy, pour the remaining dressing over the salad just before serving.


I had some left over fish crumbs, so I turned them into fish balls simply by deep frying them until crispy.

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