Fermented Fish: Pla Rah Sub

How can I call myself an Isaan kid if I do not blog about one of the most significant ingredients in Isaan cooking? … ​I am talking about fermented fish, known as pla rah in Thai and pa daek in Lao. – Charinya Ruecha @charinyas_kitchen

How can I call myself an Isaan kid if I do not blog about one of the most significant ingredients in Isaan cooking? Some of you might already know what I’m talking about. If not, I will give you more hints. This ingredient is made from fish and is famous for its smell.
I am talking about fermented fish, known as pla rah in Thai and pa daek in Lao.
Pla rah is made by pickling fish. The fish is cleaned, and then mixed with salt and rice bran. The fish will then be stored in a closed earthen jar for 3 months or longer depending on what kind of pla rah you want. The incentive for preserving fish is because in the rainy season both water and fish are abundant, but in the dry season they disappear. What better way to preserve the fish for the inevitable dry times?
In the past people could eat it like that but I remember when I was young there was a time when the Thai Health Department had a campaign to stop people eating pla rah without cooking it first. Introducing heat to the production process is important, because poorly prepared pla rah can be lethal. Nowadays the process to make pla rah is cleaner and follows food safety standards.



Pla rah can be consumed in many ways. The most common way is by using the sauce for seasoning. This time I will show you how to cook pla rah sub by using the fish part and mincing it. Pla rah sub is compounded along with many herbs and is best served with sticky rice and plenty of fresh salad and vegetables. For an extra special dish serve with grilled pork (moo ping)


Pla Rah Sub with grilled pork (Moo Ping)



  • 100g Fermented Fish minced
  • 60g Shallots, sliced
  • 60g Lemongrass, sliced
  • 30g Galangal, sliced
  • 25g Garlic, sliced
  • 20g Tamarind pulp
  • 1/2 cup Fermented fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp. Chilli powder
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp MSG (Optional)
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 10 Kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced

1. In a fry pan, toast shallots, lemongrass, garlic and galangal until brown.
2. Add the toasted ingredients in the blender followed by fermented fish mince, tamarind, sugar,
fermented fish sauce, chili powder and process until combine.
3. Transfer the mixture into the fry pan and add water. Fry for about 10 min.
4. Add finely sliced kefir lime leaves.

Pla rah sub can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

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