Bpla Rah, or, Fermented Fish

Spicy Isaan Fermented Fish Sauce (Bla Ra, Pla Ra, Bla La, Plala, Blala, Blara, Pla La)

Spicy Fermented Fish Sauce from Isaan


2 kg. fresh water fish (small size)
1 and 1/2 cup rice grain with husk (roasted and crushed)
2 and 1/2 cup sea salt
1 cup rice bran chaff


Preservation Instructions:

How to make Bpla Rah or Plara? I know some of you, including my best friends who live abroad, are dying for it. 🙂 Big Thank to my mom for a recipe.

1. Scrape the scale off of the fish. It depends on what kind of fish you pick. If you use the gouramy, then you don’t need to. However, with the bigger fish like climbing fish, it should be scraped before you do the next step.

We use any kind of fish. The whole idea is to preserve the fish we have left from cooking in daily meal. Someone can find too much from the river.

I remember that we had a big pond at our rice field where we keep there natural water from the rain. There are fish live in there and I still think that they came out of nowhere. I believe that they hibernate under the ground and come out where there is a lot of water. Is that right?

I swear that we didn’t mean to do fish farm at all. Finally, after the harvest has ended, we invited all friends and relatives to come over, removed water out of the pond and I was barefoot catching the fish with my hands. It was so much fun at that time.

However, I don’t know since when I got scared of the fish in the river. Thinking that it is slippery like a snake is why it freaks me out. If I can ignore that feeling, then it will be ok to put my hands in the water. Maybe, I think those fish are trying to eat me! haha This is so crazy feeling that someone can get scared of fish but Thai movie start is worse than me! One of them got scared of orange and some of them can’t stand seeing pineapple!! That’s a little too much.

Anyway, get back to step 2.

2. Open its stomach and remove the inside part. Clean the fish very well. Add 1 handful of salt, knead it and wash with water. Do it again one more time.

3. Add salt and knead the fish while you are adding roasted uncooked rice.

4. Keep it sealed in the container (best earthen jar). Make sure you keep the fish under thesalt water. When it dries out, boil water with salt, leave it cool and add into the container.

5. Leave it outside refrigerator at least 6 months in ventilated area.



1. Choose fresh water fish without hard skin because it is safer and easier to make Bpla Rah.

2. Brown salt is a better choice to use in a preservation process. It has a better taste. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. My family used normal salt but we will have to add it a lot so that the fish won’t get rotten.

3. Rice bran chaff is also an important ingredient. You can add unlimited amount of rice bran chaff. Adding it more will only make the juice thick, give nice smell and help with color.

4. Take a strictly action, when you keep it in container. You shouldn’t let even one fly land on it. You don’t want to see a surprise from a fly worm, do you?

5. Boil it for a long time so even if you eat the worms, no problem.

This is something that you shouldn’t miss. 😛


Note from Vern

I had to write something here because if at first this doesn’t seem appetizing to you it’s only because you know what is in it and how it’s made. It’s incredibly delicious (tasty) sauce that we use in our Som Tam, but also just with rice as a paste and dip for the rice, grilled fish, shrimps, just about anything that we eat here. It’s like a common spice that people in the Northeast (Isaan) really love and are addicted to. Fortunately I became addicted too – and I crave this every day or every other day. Finally we found a good som tam place near us here in the south and we’ll probably need to get som tam bla ra tonight because now I’m craving it. It has a harsh smell that most foreigners and even some Thais’ don’t like, but try it just to make sure before you give it the thumbs down!

5 thoughts on “Bpla Rah, or, Fermented Fish”

  1. Thank you for the recipe! I am a huge fan of pla ra and have a really hard time getting quality stuff anywhere, only in Isaan area do they serve the good stuff even then it’s still hard to find the good stuff.
    Could you send me a recipe in Thai? That way I can pass it on to my wife and she and I will have to get together and create some wonderful dishes. Thanks again!

  2. Hi, thank you for the great recipe. I was just wondering what rice bran chaff is exactly and how would you make it? And for the fermented crabs, is it the same way as the bpla rah? Can I get the recipe for that? Thank you in advance!

  3. Hi, I was wondering how long I would have to keep the bplah rah for? Afterwards do I just use it or do I have to cook it down for som tum? And can I use it for anything else besides som tum? thank you for sharing this recipe.

  4. I am originally from the Philippines, and I used to eat “burong isda” in our language, or fermented fish in English, when I was a kid. However, I don’t remember my mom using rice bran chaff, nor rice grain with husk. In the Philippines they use at least a day old cooked rice.

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