Thailand’s favourite fish

March 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Local Delicacy

‘Pla thu’ has a prime place in the culinary culture of Thailand

If there is a fish that is close to the heart of Central Thailand’s culinary tradition it is probably the pla thu, a type of mackerel that goes ideally with nam phrik kapi, the iconic chilli dip sauce. But there are several varieties of pla thu, including types found off the China coast and in Indonesian waters. The one that Thais like best, and which inhabits the Gulf of Thailand, is not especially big and is notable for its oily meat and its appetising aroma and flavour. Its life cycle involves a certain amount of travel. The mother lays her eggs in southern Thai waters where there are rocky reefs to protect them. When they hatch, the tiny fry gradually make their way to the Gulf of Thailand, and the closer they get to the part of the gulf that they are seeking, with its muddy bottom, the more food they find. It abounds in the muddy-bottomed sea off of Samut Songkhram and Phetchaburi, where the fish grow to full size and their meat reaches maximum quality. It is in these places that the best and tastiest pla thu are caught. The fish that aren’t caught by fishermen return to the South to breed and the cycle is repeated. Since the entire life cycle takes place in Thai waters, this variety of pla thu is considered to be a Thai fish. It is one fish that is eaten by Thais in every part of the country.

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