Padaek, sometimes Padek, Lao bagoong, (Lao: ປາແດກ) is a traditional Lao condiment made from pickled or fermented fish that has been cured. Often known as Lao fish sauce, it is a thicker, seasoned fish sauce that often contains chunks of fish in it. The fermentation takes a long time, giving padaek a rich aroma similar to fine cheeses like Époisses.
Unlike other versions of fish sauce in Southeast Asia, padaek is made from freshwater fish, owing to the landlocked nature of the former kingdom of Lan Xang. Padaek is used in many dishes, most notably Tam Mak Hoong, a spicy Lao papaya salad.
Padaek – Lao Fermented Fish Sauce recipe
This extremely pungent, opaque fermented fish sauce incorporates chunks of fish. It is eaten raw or cooked in a variety of Lao dishes; it is used extensively in Thailand’s Isaan province, home to many Lao. It is also made and used in northern and central Thailand. Padek’s odour is so intense that tam mak hoong (papaya salad) made with nam padek (padek liquid) can be detected a room away. When the correct amount of padek is added to a Lao dish, however, the sauce magically transforms it, adding a depth not replicable by substituting fish sauce.
Padaek - Lao Fermented Fish Sauce
- 3 kg of fish -, 3 portions of fish
- 1 kg of salt -, 1 portion of salt
- ½ kg of rice bran -, half the amount of salt
- Scale, gut, wash and drain the fish.Put the drained fish in a large bowl and add the salt. Mix together, and then leave to sit, covered, for 12 hours.
- After 12 hours, add the rice bran and mix again. Shift the mixture into a pottery or glass jar. Use your hand to press down the contents. A boiled rock may be used to maintain pressure on the fish. Do not fill the jar completely; leave 7 - 8 cm at the top as there will be expansion with fermentation.
- Cover the jar, and then leave it for at least six months. A year is preferable. During the fermentation, check the mixture. Use a large spoon to turn it and press it down again. It will keep two years in the jar. Store carefully as flies love padek!
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Video – Padaek – Lao Fermented Fish Sauce
Substitute for Padaek – Lao Fermented Fish Sauce
Bottled Lao or Isaan padek or Thai pla ra can be bought from some Asian stores. Another substitute is anchovy sauce or paste. Do not use one with vinegar. Alternatively, cook bottled anchovy fillets in fish stock until disintegrated. If desired, this mixture can then be sieved for a finer sauce. Preserved or fermented fish from various Asian countries also makes a good substitute, for example Filipino fermented or preserved gourami fish.