Fermented fish
Local name
Plaa-daek (Northeast) Plaa-ha (North) Ra (South)
Freshwater fish, especially lean and unsorted fish. Salt. Ground rice: roasted rice/paddy or unroasted/roasted rice bran.
Fish normally used:
Crossocheilus sp. (Soi)
Cyclocheilichthys sp. (Ta-kok)
Labiobarbus leptocheilus (Soi)
Channa striatus (Chorn)
Puntius gonionotus (Ta-pian)
Trichogaster sp. (Kra-dee)
Fermentation: 6-10 nonths.
Storage life: Six months to 3 years, depending on fermentation period and good care, such as tight packing and occasionally mixing to exchange the upper and lower portions in the jar.
Production: In the home or as a village industry.
Properties: Salty and a little sour, with a strong and characteristic flavour. It also has a strong smell during cooking. The colour is yellowish brown to dark brown, depending on the fish used, ingredients and method of preparation. The shape of the fish is retained during fermentation, but the flesh is soft and dissolves on boiling.
Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, Micrococcus sp., Pediococcus sp., Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus sp., Tetragenococcus halophilus, Tetragenococcus muriaticus, Lactobacillus acidipiscis
1. Clean and gut the fish then wash and drain.
2. Add salt in the ratio 3-5:1. There is no standard, the amount depends on the producer. A low salt content gives a quick fermentation, enabling quick consumption, but a strong smell. Higher salt content gives a longer fermenting time, longer storage life and a better taste and smell. Larger fish are generally mixed with salt in the ratio 4:1 and smaller fish 5:1. There can be an initial period of fermenting at this stage, ranging from 1 day to 3 months. For a longer period the fish are tightly packed in narrownecked earthenware jars and salt added to cover them. Liquid emerges from the flesh during the fermentation and fish must be kept under this liquid, so woven bamboo strips are pressed tightly on top of the fish to keep them in place. The jars are then covered to protect the fish from flies, but excess fluid must be allowed to overflow. The jars are usually kept in the shade.
3. Roast either normal rice, glutinous rice or paddy in a frying pan. The grain can be soaked for 8-10 hours beforehand if desired. When the grain is dark brown grind it coarsely. In the northeast, rice bran is often used instead, either roasted or unroasted, and mainly small fish are used.
All of the ingredients give a characteristic flavour and colour to the product. They react with the salt to give characteristic flavour and serve as source of carbohydrate for the fermenting microorganisms.
Mix fish and roasted rice in the ratio 10:1 for grain and 5:1 for bran, then pack in earthenware jars, cover and leave to ferment for at least 6 months. The final product should have no fishy flavour, and should have the characteristic and typical flavour of Plaa-raa.
Plaa-raa is eaten either raw or cooked. In the northeast it is generally eaten raw, but this carries the danger of liver parasites if it has been fermented for only a short time. The type of dish made with the raw Plaa-raa includes mixing with chopped shallots, lemongrass chilli etc. This is eaten as a condiment with vegetables and rice. If it is cooked it is fried or boiled with spices to make soup. It is also wrapped in banana leaves and baked over a fire.