Cooking with Matt

It's probably a bit sad to blog about cooking something, but truth be told, any time I get active in the kitchen it's an adventure for me. If there's a culinary equivalent of having two left feet, that's what I have. I'm a terrible cook. But recently I rediscovered my love for yam pla dook foo (Thai catfish salad) and I decided that I wanted to try and make it myself. It seemed like a relatively simple dish to put together, so I did a Google search and had a look at a few recipes.

The first challenge was buying a catfish. They don't sell them in Tops for some reason, but I found a fine specimen in Tesco for the princely sum of 42 baht. As well as my fish, I also bought two green mangos, a little bag of shallots, some lettuce, a bottle of soybean cooking oil, a bag of peanuts and a pack of bird's eye chillies. I was all set.

Getting the salad bit prepared was simple enough. I butchered five shallots, murdered a mango and a half, chopped eight chillies and smashed the bag of peanuts with the heel of my shoe. I put two table spoons of fish sauce in a bowl and added two teaspoons of brown sugar and the chillies before mixing it all up. Into that I added the shallots and mango, as well as a couple of table spoons of lemon juice.

Then came the fish. It was a big thing, much bigger than I had imagined it would be. It hadn't occurred to me that I'd need to gut the fish. I found a large knife, sawed its head off and attempted to yank out the innards. It was a challenge, as the video below shows. I'm pretty squeamish so I wasn't exactly over the moon at having to overcome this grimey task. It smelt terrible. You can hear me huffing and puffing in the video, so you can imagine how scrunched up my face was. I even donned a pair of rubber gloves.

After the fish had been dealt with I chopped it into three pieces and steamed it for five minutes in the rice cooker. Once that was done, I let it cool before pulling the meat from the bones, crumbling it up and putting it in a bowl. This then went in a small pan of boiling soybean cooking oil. The peanuts were roasted in a wok for a few minutes.

Making Thai catfish salad

It took about 10 minutes or so until the catfish look fried. Once done, I scooped it out with a spoon and let it drain on a plastic basket thing, which soon started to melt. I threw most of the peanuts into the salad and put the lettuce, which I'd just washed, onto two plates.

Making catfish salad

I then chucked the fried castfish onto the lettuce, poured over the salad bit and garnished with the remaining peanuts. The only thing left to do then was eat it, and I thought it tasted pretty great. Total cooking time more than two hours, which I'm guessing is about four times what it should have been

To sum up, my ingredients were:

  • One catfish
  • Two green mangos
  • Eight bird's eye chillies
  • Five shallots
  • Two table spoons of fish sauce
  • Three table spoons of soybean cooking oil for the salad
  • Two table spoons of lemon juice
  • Lettuce
  • One bag of peanuts
  • Two teaspoons of brown sugar
  • Half a pan of soybean cooking oil for the deep frying
Total spend was 142 baht. I already had fish sauce, a lemon and brown sugar at home.

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