How to make: Crispy catfish and green mango salad (yum pla dook foo)

We had a full course dinner last night — this crispy catfish and green mango salad, miso soup, fried Vietnamese spring rolls, and lemongrass and tamarind chicken. What can I say? I was in the mood for cooking.

Yum Pla Dook Foo was one of the dishes we tried at a Thai restaurant recently. I so loved it that I vowed I would learn how to make it so that we can enjoy it at home.

It’s not an impossible task. It’s not too ambitious a project. There was a time when we only enjoyed miso soup when we ate at Japanese restaurants; these days, we can have Japanese soup at home anytime we like. Same thing with kani salad. The trick is to discover the ingredients of a dish.

Based on a recipe from Complete Thai Cookingcasaveneracion.com (Octopus Publishing Ltd., 2006). Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 1 catfish, about 3/4 kilo (in my case, 4 catfish sections; we fried the rest for dinner the night before)
  • oil for deep frying (how much depends on the size of your wok or frying pan)
  • 2 green mangoes (mine weren’t exactly green but in the first stages of ripening)
  • shredded cabbage (wombok or similar varieties), as much as you like
  • 1 onion or 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. of chopped nuts (peanuts are recommended; I substituted pili nuts)
  • cilantro for garnish (I used Vietnamese cilantro which grows in my garden)

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsps. of fish sauce
  • 6 tbsps. of rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsps. of brown sugar
  • 2 green chilis, finely sliced
  • 1 red chili, finely sliced

Prepare the dressing ahead to allow the flavors to develop. Place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight cover. Shake until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Wrap the catfish in non-stick baking paper and grill in a 350oF oven for 30 minutes. Unwrap, cool and separate the flesh from the bones. Use two forks to shred the flesh.

Peel the mangoes and slice thinly then cut into matchsticks. You can use a shredder but you might lose a lot of the juices.

Dry fry the nuts in an oil-free pan until lightly browned.

Place the shredded cabbage on a plate or shallow bowl. Top with the sliced onion then pile on the mangoes.

Heat the cooking oil to smoking point in a wok or frying pan. Deep fry the shredded catfish until browned and crisp. To do this, place a thin layer of catfish in a slotted spatula, then lower the spatula into the hot oil. Lift when the fish is browned and drain on several stacks of paper towels. Repeat until all of the catfish flesh is browned and crisp.

Place the fried catfish on top of the mangoes. Sprinkle the roasted nuts all over the fish and vegetables. Pour the dressing and garnish with cilantro.