May 16, 2011

Thai Fried Fish

Living in-campus while in college, I learned to scour the place for great places to eat in. By great I mean not only do they serve clean, tasty and nutritious food, the prices should well be within my (meager) student allowance. Dining in the UP Diliman campus is a story by itself, and I can tell you about Rodics, the Beach House and the dozens of aristo-carts fronting the dormitories, but there's one eatery I hold close to my heart, and that's the one inside the International Center, the only turo-turo that served authentic, fiery Thai cuisine. Sure it's no fine dining experience -- afterall, I usually shared wobbly tables with complete strangers and sat on wooden stools while shooing away flies that wanted to share my lunch -- but nowhere else was I going to get good, authentic Thai meal for less than P50.00!

The turo-turo's daily offerings usually consist of four dishes, which usually includes Tom Yum and Squid with Holy Basil.  But my favorite is the fried fish blanketed with chopped red and green chili, which tasted like our escabeche, only less sour and more spicy. 

For years since graduation I tried to find the recipe but failed.  To this day I do not know the Thai name for the dish.  But I have managed to replicate the dish in my own kitchen, after several failed attempts at finding the herb that accompanied the chilis.  Ironically, it was only after re-reading my post about Wansoy and Kinchay that I realized that the herb I've been missing and looking for all along is that -- Wansoy. Coupled with the lucky find of Thai organic chilis at South Supermarket, the dish is as good as done. Thai chilis, you see, are not as spicy as our labuyo, allowing them to be added liberally into dishes without setting tongues on fire.

So here it is, my Thai Fried Fish.

What's In It?

5-7 pieces crisp-fried fish
3-5 pieces Thai finger chilis, seeded and diced
1-2 pieces Taiwan chili (warning -- this variety is hot! use with caution), sliced
5 stalks wansoy (coriander), sliced into small bits
1 large onion, peeled and minced
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 teaspoons brown sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tsp fish sauce
3 Tablespoons cooking oil

Kitchen Conjugations:

Heat cooking oil in a wok or deep pan. Saute onions and garlic until onions become soft and translucent. Add in the chilis. Stir fry for 30 seconds then add in the brown sugar. Stir fry for about 30 seconds or until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Pour in water and the fish sauce.  Let boil then lower heat, allow the mixture to simmer for 3 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Meantime, arrange the crispy fried fish in a shallow dish.

Add in the chopped coriander into the pan, and let the mixture boil once, just enough to blanche the herbs. Remove at once from the fire and pour the sauce over the fried fish.  Serve immediately with steamed rice.