Fermented fish products are a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine and widely consumed by people from all walks of life. Therefore, it is not unusual to come across aristocratic recipes for fermented fish lohn. Given the lack of distinctive ingredients or cooking techniques in documented versions of higher cuisine, it is safe to assume that similar preparations of fermented fish lohn were likely enjoyed throughout the Central Plains, both in higher and common vernacular cuisines.
Labeling this dish as aristocratic serves mainly to identify who authored the recipe, which is essentially similar in all the early Siamese cookbooks and follows the first recipe recorded by Lady Plean Passakornrawong (ท่านผู้หญิงเปลี่ยน ภาสกรวงศ์). For instance, Princess Sadap Ladawan (เจ้าจอมหม่อมราชวงศ์สดับลดาวัลย์), of the Sunandha Palace, prepares an identical dish but serves it in a polished coconut shell (ปลาร้าในกะลา; bplaa raa nai galaa).
Use fermented fish which has been aged for at least one year, ideally from snakehead fish.
While simmering the lohn, do not allow it to separate into fat.
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Simmer and reduce to yield 2/3 cups of fermented fish sauce (naam pla ra) (น้ำปลาร้า)
- 1/2 cup fermented fish meat (pla ra) (ปลาร้า) ideally fermented snakehead fish pla ra
- 2 cups coconut milk (หางกะทิ)
- 3 stalks lemongrass (ตะไคร้) bruised
- 5 slices galangal (ข่า) bruised
- 4 pieces fingerroot (krachai) (กระชาย) bruised
- 5 pieces shallots (หอมแดง) bruised
- 5 pieces kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด) hand torn
- 1 teaspoon kaffir lime zest (ผิวมะกรูด)
- 1 piece pandan leaves (ใบเตย)
- 6 cloves pickled garlic (กระเทียมดอง)
For the lohn
- 2 cups coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 2/3 cups fermented fish sauce (naam pla ra) (น้ำปลาร้า) from simmering the pla ra in coconut milk
- 1/2 cup snakehead fish (ปลาช่อน) (optional) /or
- minced shrimp meat (เนื้อกุ้งสับ) (optional)
Season to a light sweet-salty
- 1/2 tablespoon wild bee honey (น้ำผึ้งป่า)
- 1/2 tablespoon palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- fish sauce (น้ำปลา) as needed
- kaffir lime juice (น้ำมะกรูด) for aroma only
- 1/2 cup lemongrass (ตะไคร้) thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup shallots (หอมแดง) thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon young galangal (ข่าอ่อน) sliced into thin juliennes
- 1 teaspoon kaffir lime zest (ผิวมะกรูด) thinly sliced
- kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด) sliced into hair-thin juliennes
- three colors of chilies – red, green, yellow and chilies (พริกสามสี) sliced thinly, crosswise (optional)
- salted thick coconut cream (หัวกะทิเข้มข้น)
- fresh vegetables (ผักสด)
- grilled catfish (ปลาดุกย่าง)
- pomelo (ส้มโอ)
- rose apple (ชมพู่)
- green mango (มะม่วงเปรี้ยว)
- santol (กระท้อน)
- Wash the fermented fish thoroughly.
- In a pot, bring the coconut milk to a boil over medium-low heat.
- Add the aromatics – the lemongrass, galangal, fingerroot, shallots, hand-torn kaffir lime leaves and zest, pandan leaf and pickled garlic.
- Allow to simmer on low heat until the fermented fish dissolves and the liquids have been reduced by over half.
- Strain and discard the aromatics and fish leftovers. Set aside.
- Thicken coconut cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat, reserving a small amount for the garnish. Do not let the cream separate into fat.
- Mix the remaining coconut cream with the reduced fermented fish broth.
- Simmer on low heat until the mixture thickens, but do not allow the broth to separate into fat.
- Optional: add minced fish or minced shrimp meat for additional texture.
- Season to a light sweet-salty profile with honey and palm sugar.
- When you are satisfied with the seasoning and consistency, remove from the heat.
- Mix in the thinly sliced aromatics – the lemongrass, shallots, young galangal and kaffir lime zest.
- Pour into a serving bowl. Garnish with thinly sliced three colored chilies – red, green and yellow – along with kaffir lime leaves sliced into hair-thin juliennes, kaffir lime zest and a drizzle of the thickened coconut cream.
- Fresh vegetables, white turmeric, pink pomelo, rose apple, green mango or santol,
- Young leaves such as morning glory shoots, young hog plum leaves and young mango tree leaves,
- Grilled catfish or fried snakehead fish.