Saturday, 4 April 2009

Fermented Fish Sauce, Kanom Jeen Noodles, Isaan Thailand.

Noot cooking
Now I am iron gutted, I can eat just about anything and will try almost anything. Yesterday I was sitting in the bedroom working at the computer when I was hit with a smell that is so hard to describe.

I wandered into the kitchen and Miss Noot was at work.
Noot cooking
Miss Noot was busy getting all the ingredients ready for her lunch.
Thai Fish Sauce
This was the culprit of the revolting smell. For anyone who has been to Thailand and smelt fermented fish sauce, they will understand the disgusting and putrid smell that wafts off of it.
Thai Fish Sauce
When you boil the fish sauce it is meant to stop it from smelling as bad, this isn’t possible. I have seen this sauce with maggots wriggling around on the surface. When I pointed this out I was told they add taste.
Thai Fish
This is Mekong fish; we were given some from our visit to Noot’s, grandfather’s village. The fish had been steamed.
Fish, Pestle and Mortar
The fish flesh is then broken away from the bones and placed into a mortar and then you take the pestle and crush. You do have to try and pick the larger bones out before doing this.
This is fresh salad ready to be added to the finished product.
Kanom Jeen Noodles
This is Kanom Jeen, a fermented rice noodle. It is very popular here in Isaan.
Finished product
And the finished product, the noodles with the sauce on top. Kanom Jeen can be eaten with a variety of sauces, but many Thais like it with fermented fish sauce. I have tried it like this but do not like it. I prefer the sweeter sauces that you can choose, some ere even like a runny spaghetti sauce.
Noot Enjoying Kanom Jeen
So after all the hard work, Miss Noot could sit down and enjoy her work of art. I was offered a taste test but kindly declined, I was then given an ultimatum, so I had a small mouthful and as I expected; it was terrible. Very bitter and such a strong fish flavour. The worst is the smell; I just cannot get past the rotten smell of the sauce.

Have any of you tried fermented fish sauce be it in papaya salad or with kanom jeen. What are your thoughts on this true Thai cuisine?



MeMock said...

What was the ultimatum?

Brunty said...

Try the Kanom Jeen or be stabbed with a fork.....

I chose to try the kanom jeen.

She wouldn't have stabbed me, I don't think she would have :)

anryirishman said...

my wife loves the stuff. i prefer my fish a little fresher. she even sneaks rotten fish and rotten sauce thru customs. argh!! AI

Malcolm and CieJay Burgess said...

MeMock, you are one brave man , I can eat almost all rice dishes and a few noodle dishes and I really like papaya salad if it does not have the rot pickled crab or the fermented fish sauce , I like the fish sauce you buy at the stores and chop up chilies for seasoning your meals. Ciejay loves all that stinky stuff and I have ask her when she wants to eat the "My stuff" as she calls it , I just go for a ride on the Honda till she is done and the smell is all gone .One of the best compliments ever is after 4 1/2 years of eating out and most of the time the same one that the lady looked at my cleaned plate and said NOW YOU THAI MAN. Malcolm
I'm glad your stomach is holding up, How about the bowels? ha ha ha

Malcolm and CieJay Burgess said...

Sorry Brunty, I started the comment as MeMock , I know the difference , I was looking at his comment and for some reason ( the reason is I'm 67 now ha ha ) typed in his name . forgive my mistake , and tell Miss Noot to KEEP ON COOKING Malcolm

Fred said...

I sometimes ask if a dog has died.
I have the stab wounds to prove it.

Little Lady Cakes said...

I'm Laotian American, so yes...I have tasted fermented fish sauce.

I used to not mind it much as a child, however now it is hard to wrap my mind around it..or rather my nose...:)

Issarat said...

Yes, I have tried it in both som-tam and kanom jeen.
I can eat it and like it better on kanom jeen; I just don't like the chicken feet that is sometimes in the kanom jeen; the bones are so small and it's a pain to eat.
SO...I will not get stabbed with a fork when touring near your home (whew).
It took some getting used to; but I will order both dishes if eating with friends that enjoy it.
When do you go back to work?

Malcolm and CieJay Burgess said...

#2 try at comment
Glad you have got to where you can eat different Thai foods I do pretty good and can eat most dishes , but have to leave the room when the fermented fish sauce is being prepared in a dish after it's done and the fan has cleared the room , then I'm ok . Now I know where those extra lbs. you are trying to loose came from, all Miss Noots good cooking . Malcolm

Bodhi said...

Nice to get a view of your home life. Funny how you have a fully functioning kitchen, and a fully functioning chef. Despite whether you like what's cooked or not. My place has a kitchen that is used to store dishes and utensils to eat food that come in hundreds of little plastic baggies.

I enjoyed your little trip up to the river. Funny how you can leave Ubon and find yourself in deep dark Isaan before you know it. My girlfriend was a Sisaket girl, but her father lived very close to where you stayed on the river. I spent a few weeks of relaxation around that part of the river, and your pictures were a nice reminder.

Smorg said...

Whoa, that sauce she made looks hot (literally)! :o) I had kanom jeen a few times when I was in Bangkok, but I remember the sauce looked a lot milder than that (and a lot more sweet than spicy). I liked it ok, but I didn't remember it smelling that much (maybe it was a totally different sauce than this version?)...

But you're right about how foul the smell of those heavy-on-fish-sauce dishes can be... Especially this thing they call Pla Rah (spelling?). Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww! It was supposed to be an Isaan dish, I think, really rotten both in the flesh of the fish and in the smell. Worse than the smell of durian for me (and that thing is a nose-bud assassin!)!

Smorg :o)

Brunty said...

Wow, hi guys and girls and thanks for commenting.

AI, sneaking it through customs, eww. You think they would smell it a mile away :)

Malcom, I close the door to the bedroom and put a towel across the bottom of the door. Sometimes I have left the house as the smell is just terrible.

Fred, the smell of the sauce is like something that has been dead for a long time.

Little Lady Cakes, I have a lot of trouble getting my nose around the sauce even after 4 years.

Franky, Deen Gai or chicken feet are too boney and chewy. If you make it to Isaan you will taste real Pblaa Raa or fermented fish sauce not the false stuff you have probably had :)

Bohdi, the plastic bags for the plastic bags that the food comes in. Thailand loves plastic and rubber bands. I am lucky and it is also bad that Noot can cook so well.

Smorg, Kanom jeen comes with many different suaces, Plah Rah or fermented fish sauce is one I do not like. I like the sweet pork sauce.

BritinBangkok said...

Yep and it's absolutely disgusting and you're correct - the taste is bad enough, but the SMELL!!!! I wouldn't eat that stuff for a few hundred dollars and I can eat most Thai food. :-)

jamaica2 said...

Very interesting, the fermented fish sauce was common in the Roman cuisine at the the Roman Empire time. For example the Icelandic cuisine's national food are the rotten shark meat and the rotten skate.

Anonymous said...

Wow you people are so close minded. I'm a farang from minnesota and just love bpla raa. Maybe that's why a lot of thai people can't stand farang? You @$$holes act like their food is 'disgusting' but it's just different. And it's @$$holes like you that give @$$holes like me a bad name. Why don't you open your mind and try to eat like Thai people really eat for a few days? You may see why it's so good. On the other hand, you're damned Americans; the reason why I want to emigrate

Smorg said...

Oi! Nobody who had comment here made any general condemnation of Thai food, mate. A few of us just can't stand one dish, Pla Raa, and most Thais I know are totally sympathetic of the reason. They know how off-puttingly rotten the smell of it is (I should know, my mom is Thai. And she caused a scandal while going to MD Anderson School of Medicine back in the 60's when she decided to air that darn thing on the patio of her dorm room one day. They had to evacuated the whole floor of the building thinking somebody had died and was actively decomposing).

Being from the American Midwest myself, I don't like the lutefisk either (but then I haven't any Swedish in my family tree, so that's no scandal). Though I should assert that all the lutefisk-lovers I know aren't deluded enough to try to condemn people who didn't grow up eating and loving the rotten thing as ignorant.

I love Swedish meatballs. I love Hoy Tod, Pad See Ew, Pad Thai, Satays, Kai Paloh, Khanom Jeen, all sorts of flavorful Thai stir-fried dishes, beef soup, Khao Mun Kai, crispy Moo Krob, Khao Shae, Tom Yum, Tom Kha, Som Tum, Waterfall Beef, Laab, and even Gang Kari. I have no love whatsoever to Pla Rah (and the southern hotter-than-hell Yellow Curry, for that matter). I dare say most of the others who commented here are the same way. And since most Thais don't eat Pla Rah everyday, I fail to see how our not liking the thing says anything bad about Thai food or Thai eating habits.

You, on the other hand, probably should come off that pretentious high horse and realize that your own personal taste is no standard others are obligated to comply to. It might be medically advisable to refrain from Pla Rah and other rotten things for a while, seeing as how that seems to have had a bad effect on your reasoning ability (and manner... or the lack of it, for that matter). :oP

Brunty said...

Hey Smorg, I had a god laugh at the guys comments, didn't take them seriously as he has to be a flipping nut :)

Minnesota says it all! I don't know why he thinks I am American. I do have Pbla Raa time to time but not often as many times it is too strong and not my cup of tea.

I am happy to know that this is the reason why Thais don't like us 'farang' because we don't eat fermented fish sauce.... loony he is.

Occassionly a Thai teacher will open a dish that has Pbla raa in the office an even the Thais who walk in straight away comment on the smell but we usually tell the person to get out and have to air the room and spray to try and rid the smell.

The good thing Smorg is we all have our views and this guy is obviously a little off centre, maybe a head trauma or something else but did add a little enjoyment to my day.

Thanks for dropping by Smorg and the Nutter

Smorg said...

Hiya Brunty,
You're more adventurous than me, mate. I had Pla Raa once and that was enough for me for the age. ;o) I have the impression that it is a fishy version of a flattened skunk... The smell penetrates everything and lingers on even after many cans of deodorizer. :oP Dunno who first thought of eating rotten fish!

On another note (since you mentioned maggots that sometimes accompany those decomposed fish), one of my first vivid memories of Thailand was when my mom took us to breakfast at one of the many street stalls lining the road next to Lumpini Park in Bangkok (she worked at the hospital nearby) and several stalls were selling pickled ickies (snakes, scorpions, and other poisonous crawlies). :o( I think there was a snake farm near there, too, so maybe that was where they got their raw supplies.

To this day I still wonder why mom was so irritated by the fact that I never had appetite for breakfast after that... I mean... I thought it'd be obvious, you know? ;o)

Stay well, my friend!