It really doesn’t matter what it is – from some simple chicken satay skewers to a fancy medallion of filet mignon – as long as it involves the grill, the boyfriend is up to the challenge.
So when I came across a recipe for Thai-style grilled fish (pla pao) last year, he was excited…and a little curious. You see, this style of fish doesn’t call for a typical Thai marinade or even a light drizzle of oil before grilling. Instead, it calls for stuffing the whole fish with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and then coating it entirely with coarse salt. Upon hearing this, the boyfriend’s natural reaction was, “Won’t that be too salty?”
This post is part of BlogHer’s Light & Fresh Summer Grilling editorial series, made possible by Michelob ULTRA Light Cider.
Of course he didn’t remember eating grilled fish that was too salty when he was growing up in Thailand, so we decided to give it a try. And as we peeled back the heavily salted crust and took our first bite of the delightfully moist, flaky fish, we were sold. This is actually a wonderful way to grill fish!
The salt ends up forming a seal around the fish, locking in its natural moisture. Once you peel away this crust, you’re left with a piece of fish that is so moist and juicy, it almost dissolves on your tongue. And amazingly enough, it’s not too salty! Instead, you taste the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves that were tucked into the body of the fish, lending it a wonderful lemony fragrance.
Preparing whole fish this way is apparently pretty common in Thailand—and I can see why. It couldn’t be simpler to make, and it results in a mouth-wateringly delicious seafood dish! When served with jasmine rice and a variety of dipping sauces (nam jim), this salt-crusted grilled fish makes for a simple and light, yet totally filling Thai meal.
In addition to rice and nam jim sauces, I’ve read this fish can also be served with lettuce leaves to make little lettuce wraps, which is a way I particularly like to eat it. When combined with some thin rice noodles (khanom jeen), fresh herbs like Thai basil, mint, and cilantro, and a spicy lime sauce like the one I’ve shared below, it transforms the fish into yet another wonderfully light and completely refreshing meal.
Really, we’ve found that any way you eat this Thai-style grilled fish, it’s pretty amazing. I’m so glad we decided to put our doubts aside and give it a try last year. Here’s hoping that you’ll do the same!
This post is part of the BlogHer Light & Fresh Summer Grilling series, which includes 100 percent editorial content presented by a participating sponsor. Our advertisers do not produce editorial content. This post is made possible by Michelob ULTRA Light Cider and BlogHer.