I’ve been eating at Hug Esan since it opened about four months ago and have tried about 95% of the menu, but there’s one item at the Northeast Thai spot I’ve always been curious about, Nile tilapia. If memory serves it was originally listed on the menu as “tilapia with Nile herbs,” leaving me to wonder what role Egyptian herbs might possibly play in Thai cuisine.
It turns out that the fish in question is actually known as Nile tilapia or pla thapthim in Thai, which translates to ruby fish. Today some friends and I tried larb pla nile krob ($18) as part of a food crawl of Southeast Asian Elmhurst.
The crispy fried fish dusted with roasted rice powder and served with the same piquant lime and fish elixir and herbs that accompany larb is one of several preparations of the fish on offer. Even without trying the other ones, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the best of the lot. The fish itself has a wonderful burnished exterior that’s slightly sweet and crispy as all getout. Beneath that glorious mantle, lies sweet succulent flesh. It’s so well fried you might well find your self fighting over the tail with your dining companions.
Like all larbs it’s excellent with sticky rice and the accompanying cabbage and cucumbers. Best to order it “spicy” as the medium proved somewhat tame.
Hug Esan, 77-16 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, (929) 328-0392