Pla Pao – Salted Fish


There are moments when I just wanna say, “nice work Sloate, you’re a pretty fucking good cook.” I mean, I’ve screwed up as many dishes as I have been successful with- Jesus…… sounds like my life.  Supposedly, you learn from your mistakes and since I’m pretty good at fucking up; I gotta be a pro at a few things. So why not food?

Tonight I decided to cook Thai street food. One of my favorite dishes, Pla Pao, which is a salt encrusted, grilled whole fish. Basically, you take the entire fish, bruise lemongrass, and insert it from the fish’s gut to it’s mouth. Yes- you need get down and handle the beauty of a raw fish with head still attached. You are going to have to get used to taking advantage of your little Nemo. Next step with our little guppy, you break up Kaffir Lime leaves and put it in the fish’s belly along with your lemongrass. Followed by a 15-minute massage incasing the fish in a rock salt, flour, and water paste. 

I customized the dish with my “Five Star style” by using my All-Clad lasagna pan that goes into the oven versus a charcoal grill. Look at me, so fancy!!! (#all-clad looking for a new person to sponsor??) Once the fish comes out, let it rest for a few minutes, then peel the skin and salt crust back. Now holy shit, you just cooked a fish with aromatics like no other! The smell of lemongrass, Kaffir Lime Leaf, and salt is like walking into the spa at Auberge. “Francis wear is my luffa?? More, more, more Champagne!!!” #lebomb

I made a standard South East Asian dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham, to go with the dish. Lime juice, garlic, Thai Chilis, sugar, and fish sauce. It is bitter, spicy, sweet, and salty. It’s something I like to call box sauce. Why? Because it hits your four main taste profiles, like a strike zone in baseball. The strike zone is four elements coming together. Your sauce should blend the four and end up with a strike. When I’m making the sauce I find myself sounding like Bumgarner – “that’s a strike bitch!” Why a salt crust?  Salt in itself traps moisture in the fish, flour, and water helping the salt adhere to the fish.  The result, a completely moist piece of the sea.

Tonight I wasn’t watching baseball, but I was ranting as if I was. I was enjoying my ability to bring food experiences from the road to my table at home. Shit, Nemo was good! “Francis, more Champagne!!!”

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