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This isn't a crispy soup, it's a soup made with crispy fish. Specifically pla krop (pronounced 'plah grob' with the 'o' in krop being something between a short o sound an a 'au' sound (a bit like saying 'crab' when you have a very nasal cold)) is deep fried catfish.
The catfish is fried whole in very hot oil (smoking peanut oil), so the usual cautions and caveats apply. Also for the proper flavor it should be fried with the head on - in Thailand it is fried before it is cleaned and trimmed for the second stage of cooking. You may of course clean and fillet the fish first.
The very hot oil ensures that only the outside of the fish is crunchy-crisp, and the inside is not reduced to concrete hardness!
If you prefer this dish can be made with salmon, trout, or sea bass.
1 catfish, to yield about half a pound of catfish pieces.
6 thin slices of kha (galangal)
6 thin slices of khing (ginger)
4 hom daeng (shallots - purple onions)
6 to 8 prik chi fa haeng (dried red Thai jalapenas)
4 kratiam (cloves of garlic - with skins)
2 to 3 stalks of takrai (lemon grass or citronella), cut in 2" pieces
½ cup of nam pla (fish sauce)
½ cup of nam som makham (tamarind juice)
Deep fry the catfish whole in very hot oil until the skin is very crisp. Remove and drain. When cool enough to handle, remove the head and the tail (don't waste it — it can be added to your fish stock pot, or fed to the cat), then break the rest into large bite sized pieces, discarding the major bones.
On a grill or barbeque, grill the galangal, ginger, shallots, jalapenas, garlic and lemon grass until slightly charred. Discard the skins, and chop, then pound to a paste in a mortar and pestle or a food processor.
Bring about 3 cups of water to a rolling boil, and add the ingredients, after one minute lower the heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Special thanks to - Muoi Khuntilanont.