Pla sam rod
What is pla sam rod?
Pla sam rod (pronounce “plaa sam ros”, with the final “s” sounding midway between an “s” and a “t”) literally means “fish three flavours.” More elaborately described, it is fried fish with a three-part sauce. The fish is often a white fish, such as sea bass, sea bream or snapper; whole or filleted. The three flavours are common in Thai cuisine: sour, sweet and salty.
An authentic three-part sauce is therefore made with tamarind for the sour, palm sugar as a sweetish component and a salty nam pla (fish sauce). In addition, there is also a good amount of chilli peppers. For Thai people, who are used to a lot of spiciness, the balance between the three flavours in the sauce is not disturbed by the extra heat. In terms of taste, the sauce is somewhat like sweet chilli sauce from a bottle, but livelier, more pronounced, hotter and yet sweeter.
Pla sam rod is a familiar sight in Thai restaurants, both in the country itself and over the border.
How to make pla sam rod
A paste of pounded red chilli peppers, coriander roots, garlic and shallots is briefly fried in hot oil until the garlic and onion are cooked. Then palm sugar and tamarind water are stirred in. In five minutes, it is caramelised and simmered into a sauce that looks a bit like a chutney. The third component, salt, is added last in the form of fish sauce.
In the meantime, first a handful of Thai basil – then the fish – is fried. Thai people love deep fried fish, but shallow frying is also delicious and much less greasy. Either way, the fish is served with the sauce spooned over it. The fried Thai basil and some extra chilli pepper complete the dish.
Pla sam rod is served with white rice.
In Chinese cuisine, they also like to serve fried fish, often with ginger or black bean sauce. Vietnamese bun rieu combines sweet crab with sour tamarind, but not like pla sam rod – it is a noodle soup.