Delicious Thai fish stir-fry with Chinese celery and vegetables.
Fish with Chinese Celery – Pla Pad Keun Chai
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
Bill and I had been out to eat not too long ago and settled on a Thai restaurant up in Fairfield. I had ordered the Pad Thai, which is nice because it wasn’t too sweet and normally I don’t like any of those noodle dishes when I go out because of that. I think there should be a good balance of flavor in Thai food: Hot- being enough spice (or Thai bird chillies), Sour- which in that case is usually lime, Salty- which is fish sauce for the most part, and Sweet- which is usually palm sugar (or whatever). And most times these restaurants go overboard with the sugar, mostly because I think they are scared people will find out they used fish sauce. And there is nothing wrong with fish sauce, of course, unless you put your nose up to the bottle and take a good whiff, because yes. It smells like fish. But this restaurant does very well balancing their sauce, so on those days when I don’t feel like having to cook Thai myself (I do actually like eating other people’s food) it is an option.
But anyway…while we were there I noticed a little card for specials on the table (the compulsion to read things began as a child reading the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast) and one of the cards mentioned a fish stir-fry with celery.
It really has my thinking cap on for wanting to try all sorts of new recipes with celery, and indeed I have a few that I will be posting in the near future along with the one I am posting today, for Thai fish with Chinese celery. As you can see in the photo below, it looked quite tempting! I didn’t have much to go on but the photo, but knew I wanted to make it. The waitress had said their fish was not fried but just stir-fried. I already knew if I did this I wanted to lightly fry mine- not because I insist on fried foods, but in the case of a stir-fry, adding in fish is easier if it is fried because the coating helps keep it from falling apart when you stir.
Of course, when I was over at Jungle Jim’s market, it sealed the deal when I saw nice fresh Chinese celery in their international produce section. You might wonder about it and what kind of vegetable it is. I can tell you it is much like regular celery, maybe a touch thinner, has a bit more fiber and stronger celery flavor. I think over time celery has been produced to be so much more tender and crisp and these are probably the main differences. So feel free to use either in this recipe as I think they will work.
I also chose Swai as my fish, because of the Asian character of it, and I know it is used a lot in Vietnamese cooking since it is quite similar to catfish as a breed. You could also use tilapia or any other type of white fish suitable for frying.
My sauce is a typical Thai stir-fry sauce, which has many similarities to Chinese sauces except perhaps the fish sauce, but that really is essential for good flavor (at least I think so!) I had galangal on hand so used that but I don’t see that much difference from fresh ginger so use either. The rice we can be snobbish about and insist on jasmine, but really any type rice is ok, including brown rice. Use what you have on hand.
The results of my recipe exceeded my own expectations so I know I will be making this often. I hope you enjoy it as well. Until next time-
Fish with Chinese Celery - Pla Pad Keun Chai
- 8 ounces swai fillets, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup cornstarch (to dust fish)
- 5 ounces Chinese celery, chopped (separate leaves from stems but you’ll use both)
- 5 ounces chopped onion
- 5 ounces julienne bamboo shoots
- 2 small red hot Thai chillis, sliced
- cooking oil
- 1/2 cup chicken both
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated galangal or ginger root
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 2 cups steamed rice
- Whisk together sauce ingredients in a small bowl: chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, galangal, garlic, sesame oil and corn starch; set aside.
- Dust fish pieces in cornstarch and shake off excess.
- Heat oil 1/2-inch deep in a wok skillet and cook fish until crisp and cooked through; drain.
- Drain off all oil except 2 tablespoons and reheat wok skillet.
- Stir-fry the celery stems, onions until crisp tender; add bamboo shoots, celery leaves and sliced chillies, cooking half a minute.
- Add sauce to pan and stir until thickened.
- Add cooked fish to pan and toss gently to coat with sauce.
- Serve stir-fry with steamed rice.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com