Southern Thai Cuisine (Dtai)

แกงไตปลาปลาดุกย่างโบราณ – Fermented fish innards curry is a dense curry made of fermented fish innards is dark coffee-brown in color – a salty, fiery hot dish, it grips the palate in an intense umami embrace. As the flagship dish in the repertoire of spicy southern Thai cuisine, it comes in different versions: some are water based; some have a base of coconut cream. But whatever the style, it is a fiercely hot dish that features both dried and fresh chilies.

This profoundly spicy, chestnut-colored pork curry radiates a pungent slow-burning heat from generous amounts of roasted black pepper, along with long peppers and naughty charred dry chili peppers. The curry’s aroma is concentrated even further by roasting the ingredients prior to pounding them – a process that shaves the high notes of the curry and provides a low-pitched intensity that lasts far beyond each bite.

If we could strip away the spices, the seasonings, the vegetables and the herbs from savory dishes we could uncover their naked flavor profile core. There, we would encounter a strong savory-umami, sometimes coupled with other basic elements of smoke and fat. This flavor core is, for us humans, the sought-after taste of protein; our first sip of mother’s milk, and the primal experience of burned game meat on the fire.

Today we would like to highlight a powerhouse for umami creation: the fermentation process. We will focus on fermented fish innards from southern Thailand (dtai bpla ไตปลา), one of about a dozen fermented products used in the country. We will show you how chefs for the capital’s elite, as early as or, before the reign of King Phra Phutthaloetla Naphalai (Rama II, 1767-1824), harnessed its wild nature and created a dish similar to what we present today – a salad with infused fermented fish innards dressing.

Yellow sour curry (gaaeng leuuang, แกงเหลือง) is considered a comfort food for the people of Thailand’s southern region. Lavish amounts of fresh turmeric give this spicy, sour and salty curry its rich yellow tint, as well as its earthy aroma and a pleasantly bitter taste. The curry also contains generous portions of the southern dark fermented shrimp paste, resulting in a cloudy, ochre-colored dish.

Southern yellow sour curry is primarily made with saltwater fish, and with either water spinach (phak boong ผักบุ้ง), bamboo shoots (fresh or pickled), green papaya, the stems of the giant elephant ear plant (Colocasia gigantea) (aaw dip อ้อดิบ or thuun ทูน), winter melon (fak khiaao ฟักเขียว) or lotus stems. But versions of the curry that include freshwater fish, shrimp, salted threadfin fish (bplaa goo lao khem ปลากุเลาเค็ม), or even beef or pork belly, are not rare.

If you are a fish lover, than you know that there are only few things in life that taste better than absolutely fresh fish, deep-fried to perfection with a crispy skin that brakes open to reveal the irresistible, steamy, firm white flesh.

Thai fried fish recipe originated from fishing communities of the south of Thailand, were fishes are being cooked as it arrive almost directly from the fishing boats.

Do you remember hearing the ocean through a large conch shell when you were a kid? This stylish yet simple dish is made from only a few ingredients and will dip your taste buds in flavorful, rich and creamy ocean’s essence, like that conch shell.

In the southern provinces of Thailand, those bordering the sunny beaches of the Andaman sea, one can find yet another type of fermented shrimp product, “liquid fermented shrimp” (gabpi naam ; กะปิน้ำ).

The food culture of Phuket, like its architecture, blends western colonial, Hokkien Chinese with Muslim and Thai motifs. The Hokkien Chinese who arrived from Singapore and Malaysia introduced Muu Haawng to the repertoire of the Phuket Thai style cuisine (bpoon dteh ; ปุ้นเต่).

It is very similar to the Teochew style Phalo, but here there is no use of Chinese five-spice powder, instead it is relaying only on soy sauce, sugar, garlic and black pepper to create a thick gravy that color the pork with a caramelized shiny red and tempting sheen.