It’s great if you live near a good seafood restaurant, where you can always satisfy your seafood urge at any time. I live near a Captain D’s location in Tennessee, so I can just get a Seafood Feast and enjoy 12 batter-dipped fish, 12 crispy butterfly shrimp, 3 seafood stuffed crab shells, and 12 hush puppies. It also comes with your choice of 2 sides, and for me that usually means getting the okra and green beans. Not bad for $37.60, according to the price-tracking website PriceListo.
But when I’m enjoying my seafood here in the US, sometimes I can’t help but think of all the seafood I enjoyed in Thailand. I made quite a few friends there, which is ironic considering that I tried my hand at Muay Thai. All that pain somehow recedes into the background when I was hanging out with the friendly locals while enjoying the food.
Here’s a few of the seafood I really liked:
The name actually refers to the frying method, which is either deep-frying or pan -frying. For this type of cooking, they use fish such as mackerel, catfish, white perch, snapper, grouper, and rock cod. Sometimes they also fry sand dabs, smelts, and anchovies. Most of the time, this type of cooking involves frying the whole fish with everything intact, and then you get perfect crispiness inside and out.
This is the type of fish we usually get with various soups and curries. It’s also often served with some chili-based dipping sauce on the side, along with some rice and a green mango salad.
Goong ob Woon Sen
This is stir-fried Thai shrimp and glass noodles, and it’s a mainstay in lots of restaurants in the country. They use clay pots to cook large freshwater shrimps or tiger prawns, and then top them with ginger, coriander, peppercorns, and soy sauce.
Each restaurant may offer their own take on the dish, so you may encounter versions that use oyster sauce, bacon slices, shallots, garlic, and different herbs and spices.
Some restaurants for tourists call this the Sour Spicy Fish Curry. It’s a sour, water-based Thai curry that’s usually made with shrimps or fish, along with a thick paste made with shrimps, chilis, and shallots. If you crisscross the country, you’ll find that each region may have its own version of the kaeng som.
In the central regions of Thailand, they enhance the kaeng som with tamarind pulp, to really give you that sour flavor. In the southern parts, the dish usually comes with turmeric. A restaurant menu may also list this as “yellow curry” or “orange curry”, but it’s different from the coconut-based yellow curry known as kaeng kari.
The kaeng som usually comes with several different veggies. However, more modern version also includes the addition of cha om cake, which is an egg-based dish that’s pan-fried with acacia leaves.
Khanom chin nam ya
You’ll find this a lot in Central Thailand, although you may find similar versions of it all over the country. It’s a rather fiery Thai curry you’ll remember. The most common version comes with khanom chin (fresh rice noodles) served with thick and spicy coconut milk-based curry, white fish, and a type of thick curry paste made with garlic, turmeric, shrimp paste, lemongrass, and freshly ground chilis.
The classic version is topped with hardboiled eggs, and it’s usually served with fried chilis, lemon basil, and fresh veggies.
Kaeng tai pla
You’ll generally find this dish a lot in the southern regions. It’s a thick, aromatic fish curry that requires a certain bravado on your part, since it’s made with tai pla. That’s the term they use for fermented fish entrails. They combine this with a spicy curry paste made from lemongrass, shallots, turmeric, shrimp paste, galangal, and chili peppers.
The classic version only makes this with fish, and most versions don’t use coconut milk. But different restaurants will usually add their own preferred ingredients, so you may also find additions like string beans, bamboo shoots, diced eggplant, or dry fish. The aroma of the dish is quite pungent while the flavor is really intense, so you really need that steamed rice on the side.
Pla muek yang
This is a popular street food in Thailand, though in restaurants it works as either the appetizer or even as the main course. In some cases, it’s also mixed with salads.
This is char-grilled skewered squid, usually coated in a sauce that tastes both sweet-and-sour and spicy. This sauce is made of coriander roots, chilis, garlic, fish sauce, and lime juice, along with a bit of sugar. It’s frequently served with peanuts and coriander leaves on top.
If you’re trekking across the country, you’ll quickly find pla muek yang in street stalls and small, roadside eateries. And you’ll quickly like it too!