02/12/13 12:15pm
Zabb Elee's pla som brings the awesome.

Zabb Elee’s pla som brings the awesome.


Fermentation is gastronomic alchemy. It can turn grains into intoxicating elixirs and cabbage into kimchi. And squid guts into something so foul it should be weaponized. Japanese home-style squid guts are not my cup of sake. Thai fermented fish, pla som, on the other hand, is one of my favorite things.

It’s made by taking a fish, salting it, and packing it with rice and garlic and leaving it unrefrigerated for three days to let nature take its course. I do not intend to undertake what’s  probably a very simple  process in my home kitchen. So in Queens I like to eat pla som at Zabb Elee, the wonderful Northeastern Thai spot.  A fried piece of tilapia pla som runs $9. It’s crunchy sour, slightly funky and absolutely wonderful with the accompanying fried  shallots, galangal, and chilies.

Until I get to Thailand Zabb will likely remain my go-to spot for this dish. Lucky for me they’re open quite late and are only a short subway ride from my place.  One can never tell when that late-night fried fermented fish craving’s gonna hit.

Zabb Elee, 71-28 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, 718-426-7992