Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thai Mackerel Lettuce Wraps (Miang Pla Too – little mackerel bites)

Two weeks ago I got married on a beautiful beach in Railay, in southern Thailand (hence the lack of blog activity of late). Behind every happy bride is a dedicated bridesmaid and I was fortunate enough to have four. One of them was Jane, a very dear Thai friend has stoked and indulged my growing obsession with Thai food. Every time I am in Railay, she introduces me to a new dish or snack, each one better than the last.

In the days running up to the wedding, Jane saw me gradually transform from beach bum to Bridezilla as I worried, fussed and organised. She pulled me aside, reminded me I needed to eat and told me that however busy I was, she just had to introduce me to Miang Pla Too. This is  a snack which you eat like a small fajita:  you take a piece of lettuce, fill it with rice noodles, fresh coriander and mint, and fried mackerel, drizzled with a tangy spicy sauce and wrap it into a little  parcel. As I popped the little flavour bomb into my mouth, all the knots in my tummy unwound and my inner foodie who had been woefully neglected over the last week, did a little skip. It was simply delicious.

This recipe is as you would find it in Thailand. All I’ve done is tweak the presentation. The fish is usually deep-fried whole and you’d pick a piece off the bone, whereas I have filleted it first and then pan-fried it. It’s up to you whether you want to divide the ingredients up onto individual plates, or let people help themselves from a large plate on the table, which is more Thai style. We ate ours right on a step, no fuss.

This is a quick, simple, starter bursting with flavour – enjoy!

Time: 30 mins
Rating: So easy
Serves: 4 people


4 small mackerel fillets (about 125g per person)
200 grams rice noodles (Straight to wok) 75g dried
Handful coriander leaves (with stalks still intact but roots removed)
Handful fresh mint leaves

For the sauce:
3 tbsp lime juice
3 small red chillis (a spicy variety like birdseye)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp water


  1. Start by making the sauce. Finely hop the chilli, keeping the seeds in. Then finely chop the garlic. If you have a mortar and pestle, pound them, otherwise keep chopping as finely as you can with a knife.
  2. Transfer to a small dish along with all the other sauce ingredients, but keep some of the chilli aside. You can add more later once you have tasted. Mix well and taste. If it is too spicy for your taste add more sugar, water or lime juice. If you want it spicier, add the remaining chilli.
  3. If your mackerel isn’t filleted already, fillet it. This is an easy fish to fillet because the bones are large and firm. Season the fillets on both sides. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry your fillets til they are gently browned on both sides, about 3-4 mins on each side, skin side first. When cooked, transfer to a small plate. It’s up to you whether you leave the fillets whole and let your guests break pieces off, or cut them into small pieces yourself.
  4. If your rice noodles are dried, cook according to packet instructions. If they are fresh, remove from the packet and separate any that have stuck together. Set aside. The noodles should be no warmer than lukewarm – you don’t want them burning your fingers or wilting the leaves.
  5. When your fish is done, lay out all the components on a large plate or board.  Give each guest a small plate and let them make their own wraps, starting with a lettuce leaf, then a small pile of noodles, then a piece of fish, a coriander sprig, a couple of mint leaves and finishing off with a drizzle of the sauce.

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