How to make Thai fried fish with garlic and turmeric (วิธีทำปลาทอดขมิ้น)
Fish is without doubt, one of my favorite things to eat in the world.
I love all kinds of fish, prepared in all forms and styles, like Thai style salt coated grilled fish.
But when it comes to deep fried fish, there are few dishes that tempt me more than this simple southern Thai recipe for fried fish that’s overflowing with crispy garlic and turmeric.
This is, in my opinion, perhaps the ultimate way to eat a deep fried fish.
Pla tod kamin (ปลาทอดขมิ้น)
In Thai, it’s called pla tod kamin (ปลาทอดขมิ้น), and this recipe is specifically a southern Thai food recipe, found commonly in the south, and also throughout Bangkok at southern restaurants.
This is a style of fried fish that my mother in law makes frequently for me, and I can never get over how good and simple it is. So I thought I would share the recipe.
Ingredients for this recipe
This recipe really takes only a few ingredients, and when I was in the United States, I saw all the ingredients readily available, so if you want to make this recipe, I think you’ll be able to find everything (as long as you can get the fish and the fresh turmeric rhizome).
- 2 small fish (it was about 1 kg. for me)
- Few pinches of salt
- 250 g. garlic (กระเทียม it was about 7 full heads of garlic)
- 150 g. fresh turmeric (ขมิ้น)
- 1 liter of oil or so – enough to deep fry the fish
Threadfrin bream (ปลาแดง)
For fish, one of the most common types of fish for this dish in Thailand is pla daeng (ปลาแดง) in Thai, which is a type of threadfrin bream.
The threadfrin bream is a great fish to use because it’s small in size, not too big, so it’s easy to manage and to deep fry, and the meat of the fish is nice and firm, so it really holds up after being cooked.
You could use another type of fish, even a tilapia or mackerel would work, but I would recommend a threadfrin bream if you can find it.
Make sure you either take out the organs yourself, or ask the butcher to take out all the insides for you, but you want the head still on.
To prepare your fish, you want to make a few small slices on both sides of it, that way it fries better, and all that garlic and turmeric will seep into it (see video for how to do this, or watch below).
Fresh garlic and turmeric
Like I mentioned, along with the fish, the second most important ingredient in this recipe for pla tod kamin (วิธีทำปลาทอดขมิ้น) is turmeric.
Turmeric is one of the world’s most incredible tasting and most healthy natural things. It’s used frequently in Indian cuisine, and it’s extremely common in southern Thai cooking as well.
When I was in the US, I found fresh turmeric root readily available at an Asian supermarket.
You’ll also need heaps of garlic (I used 7 heads).
The first step is to just take the garlic and turmeric, and slice them into small pieces – this step of the recipe is only to make it easier to pound them.
In my recipe video, to peel all the garlic cloves, I used the shaking pot method (video).
I used a Thai stone mortar and pestle to coarsely grind both the garlic and turmeric, but you could alternatively use a blender or food processor.
Just keep in mind that you’re not looking to make the garlic and turmeric too smooth and buttery like a curry paste, but much more chunky.
It took me only about 5 minutes to pound this up, instead of 1.5 hours like a hand-made Thai curry paste.
Once you have your garlic and turmeric mixture ready, take the fish, and it’s easiest to put them into a big basin.
The next step is to sprinkle the fish with a few pinches of salt. You don’t need to add too much, I just gave both sides of the fish a quick sprinkle, then rubbed it in.
Then in goes all that beautiful orange garlic and turmeric.
You want to kind of massage the fish for a few minutes, making sure all the garlic and turmeric is nicely coating the fish, and make sure you rub all of it into the slices on the side of the fish that you made before, and over the head… everywhere!
It doesn’t take long to marinate, I let the fish sit for about 10 – 15 minutes before frying.
Frying the fish
The next step for this Thai fried fish with garlic and turmeric recipe is to deep fry the fish.
I’m using a wok, and I think for frying fish it might be easiest to use either a wok or a frying pan to deep fry, as opposed to a pot with higher edges.
I used about 1 liter of soybean oil, but really any kind of vegetable oil you’d like to use should work fine. Make sure your oil is nice and hot before you add in the fish.
Important: You want to first deep fry the fish only (without the garlic and turmeric), so before you add your fish to the oil, scrape off all the excess turmeric and garlic. The reason is because the fish will take longer to cook than the turmeric and garlic, and we don’t want to burn it, so we’ll come back to fry the garlic and turmeric after the fish.
Ok, so the tricky thing is knowing how long to fry your fish, and it will really depend on how big or thick your fish is. My fish were quite small, and I fried them for about 5 – 8 minutes per side.
On thing you’ll need to do is keep scraping your spatula along the bottom of the wok / pan, making sure your fish doesn’t stick to the bottom. Just be extremely careful when you do this.
Once your fish is nice and browned on the bottom side, and you think it’s cooked on that side, it’s time to carefully flip it over, or even just sort of roll it over.
Mine wasn’t the prettiest, but I got the job done.
Keep frying for about 5 – 8 minutes on the other side of the fish as well, but monitor it carefully and it may take more or less time for you.
Also keep scraping the bottom of the pan, making sure your fish is swimming in the oil and not sticking to the bottom.
Once your fish is cooked through, and golden yellow brown, it’s time to take them out of the oil and put them in a draining strainer or paper towel, and you can just set them aside while we fry the turmeric and garlic.
Frying the garlic and turmeric
The next thing to do is turn down your heat to a medium low, and then slowly add in all the turmeric and garlic into the hot oil. It should really bubble up as soon as you add it, but then it will settle down.
You want to slowly stir from the bottom of the pan, making sure it doesn’t stick or clump up (turmeric and garlic has a tendency to get a little sticky from all the oils), so just stir slowly and carefully.
It’s going to depend on how hot your oil is, but if your oil is a low medium heat, it should take about 5 – 10 minutes to deep fry.
You want to make sure the garlic is turning golden crispy, and the turmeric should be dark orange brown, but be careful not to burn it – you’ve just kind of got to feel it out until it’s the right color and you can feel it crispy.
Once your garlic and turmeric is done, take a strainer, and fish out all of it from the hot oil – and don’t leave any behind – the combo is so delicious you want to make sure to scrape out every last bit of it!
Leave the turmeric and garlic to drain for a few minutes, and then it’s time to assemble the final plate.
Assembling the final plate
The final step is to take your fried fish, which should be nicely drained by now, and set them onto a plate. Then just start spooning on the crispy garlic and turmeric.
Spoon it all on. It may look like a huge heap of garlic and turmeric, but believe me, once you start eating, you’ll want to eat all of it.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably start to snack on the turmeric and garlic because it smells so incredibly good.
Your pla tod kamin (ปลาทอดขมิ้น) is ready to go.
Eat it with a hot fresh plate of rice.
Here’s the video… (press play now!)
(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: http://youtu.be/6KQ0jxhO0GY)
Thai fried fish with garlic and turmeric recipe (pla tod kamin วิธีทำปลาทอดขมิ้น)
Time: About 45 minutes or so
Recipe size: I made two small sized fish
Cooking utensils: Mortar and pestle, wok or pot for deep frying
Flavors: Salty, garlicky, lots of turmeric
Eat it with: Rice, or other southern Thai curry dishes
Warning – Turmeric is extremely orange, and it will stain things like white plastic bowls or blenders. So just keep this in mind when you’re cooking with fresh turmeric. I normally use a metal bowl marinated the fish in the turmeric which doesn’t stain.
For more Thai street food recipes, click here.
- 2 small sized fish (about 1 kg. both together), I'm using a fish called "pla daeng (ปลาแดง)" in Thai, which is a threadfrin bream
- Few pinches of salt
- 250 g. garlic (กระเทียม it was about 7 full heads of garlic)
- 150 g. fresh turmeric root (ขมิ้น)
- 1 liter of oil or so - enough to deep fry the fish
- The first step is to prepare your garlic and turmeric. For the garlic, just peel all the cloves (and I used the shaking pot method, which actually works quite well when you need a ton of garlic like this), and set the peeled cloves aside.
- For the turmeric, chop it into small pieces and set it aside.
- Next step is to take your mortar and pestle and start grinding the garlic and turmeric. I had to do little by little in many batches and then mix it up in a bowl. It should only take about 5 or 10 minutes to pound - you're not going for a paste, but more just an oily mixture of crushed garlic and turmeric. Alternatively you could use a food processor or blender, just don't make it too smooth.
- To prepare your fish, you want to make sure it's already de-scaled, and also that the insides have been removed - you can either do it yourself, or it might be easier to have the butcher do it when you buy it.
- Take the fish, and you want to make three diagonal slices on the fillet of the fish, make sure you cut through the skin, but don’t go too deep into the flesh.
- Next you’ll need a big bowl or basin and go ahead and put the fish in.
- Take some salt, and give each of the fish a small sprinkle on both sides, and rub your hands over the salt to make sure it’s spread evenly over the skin of the fish.
- Grab the turmeric garlic mixture and start piling it onto the fish, all of it. You can gently massage the fish, mostly to make sure every part of the fish is coated in orange goodness. Also, take some of that turmeric and garlic and really stuff it into the slits we made in the side of the fish - this will ensure the flavor gets embedded in the fish.
- Set aside the fish, and leave it to sit for about 10 - 15 minutes.
- While you're waiting for the fish to marinate for a few minutes, you can prepare your oil for deep frying.
- Turn on your stove to a medium heat and add about 1 liter of oil (however much you think you need) to your pot or wok.
- We're going to fry the fish first, and then the garlic and turmeric, so first shake off all the garlic and turmeric from the fish, and leave it in the basin for later (this is because the fish will take longer to fry, so we'll fry the fish first, then the garlic and turmeric after).
- Make sure your oil is fully hot, and then gently slide the fish into the oil carefully. They should immediately start to sizzle up and bubble.
- Fry the fish for about 5 - 8 minutes on each side, but it will really depend on the size of your fish - so if your fish is bigger you'll need more time. While it fries, make sure you carefully scrape the bottom of your pan with a spatula to make sure your fish doesn't stick.
- When your fish looks nice and golden brown on the bottom side, it's time to flip it over, and again, fry it for about 5 - 8 minutes on the other side.
- Keep monitoring your fish closely, making sure it doesn't stick.
- When the fish is brown and golden, and you think it's fully cooked through, take it out of the oil, and set it in a strainer to drain.
- Now we're going to fry the garlic and turmeric. Keep your stove on a medium heat, a carefully drop in all the garlic and turmeric. It will probably bubble up, then settle down.
- Slowly and carefully stir with your spatula, making sure nothing sticks and the garlic and turmeric is fries nice and evenly.
- The garlic and turmeric will probably take about 5 - 10 minutes to fry. You want to make sure it turns dark golden in color, and you'll be able to feel the crispiness with your spatula.
- When the garlic and turmeric is done, strain it all out, and let it drain for a few minutes.
- Take your fried fish, put it on a plate, and then pile on all the fried garlic and turmeric.
This recipe is fairly simple, and doesn’t take a lot of ingredients, but the flavor combination of the crispy garlic and turmeric is revolutionary.
It’s so good, my mouth is actually watering the entire time I’m writing this recipe.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this typical southern Thai recipe for fried fish with garlic and turmeric (วิธีทำปลาทอดขมิ้น).
Hope you can try this out, and please leave a comment letting me know how you enjoy it.