Last year, Mark Wiens and I had a meal together, and this was one of the dishes we enjoyed. If you missed that video, here it is: https://youtu.be/gzrnhGh4JYs
In this video I declared that I can’t think of another dish that I prefer to this dish, and after thinking about it some more, I still stand by that. It is one of my, and my brothers’, all-time-favourite dishes. The fish is fluffed up and fried until golden and crispy. The savoury crunch is contrasted by the fresh tart green mango salad—it’s truly a match made in heaven and there are no other dishes quite like it.
Traditionally this dish uses Thai charcoal-grilled catfish, which is widely available on the streets of Thailand. But considering what we’re doing to it, it really doesn’t matter much which kind of fish you use, and indeed Thai people routinely use various other types of fish, and even shrimp, for this dish. In this video I go with tilapia which is a versatile, inexpensive white fish I usually have in my freezer.
SAFETY NOTE: After watching the frying of the fish, you may feel intimidated to try it, and I felt the same way the first time I made it! Let me assure you though that AS LONG AS you take the precautions I mention, you will be fine. So: LEAVE PLENTY OF ROOM for the oil to bubble up so it won’t overflow and catch fire (that would be bad!!). My rule of thumb is: don’t fill the oil any more than 1/3 of the depth of the pot/wok, and the oil only needs to be about 1-inch deep so you don’t need a lot! For maximum fluffiness, I mentioned that the oil should be about 400F (like my second round of frying in the video) but if you feel a little scared by the aggressive oil bubbling, you can drop the fish at 375F and it won’t be as aggressive (like my first round), and either of them will be delicious. While we’re on this subject, it’s always a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, so something to think about if you don’t already have one!
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Pailin “Pai” Chongchitnant is the author of the Hot Thai Kitchen cookbook, co-host of a Canadian TV series One World Kitchen on Gusto TV, and creator and host of the YouTube channel Pailin’s Kitchen.
Pai was born and raised in southern Thailand where she spent much of her “playtime” in the kitchen. She traveled to Canada to study Nutritional Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and was later trained as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in San Francisco.
After working in both Western and Thai professional kitchens, she decided that her passion really lies in educating and empowering others to cook at home via YouTube videos, her cookbook, and cooking classes. She currently lives in Vancouver, and goes to Thailand every year to visit her family. Visit her at http://hot-thai-kitchen.com
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