Snakeskin gourami found! I puzzled over this fish during a recent browse through the freezer section of my local Cambodian market. It was labeled “Marinated gourami”. I wasn’t sure if that meant it was fermented or what. I am pleased to now make the connection–this is in fact the mainland Southeast Asian freshwater fish known as pla salid ปลาสลิด in Thailand. There it is widely enjoyed salted, dried, and deep-fried.
The fish was marketed under the brand Gusto, (here is a link to its website with product list) the same brand that is responsible for my recent find of “Rotten” bean sheets. Looks like the company is focusing on items that are not yet mainstream imports. Gusto is also importing frozen yanang leaves (here is a Google image search–I still haven’t found these fresh in the States).
In Thailand, these fish are best known from a particular area, Banphaew District (บ้านแพ้ว) of Samut Sakhon Province (Central Thailand).
Besides having a nice flavor of its own, it is a really nice crunchy accompaniment to papaya salad.
La thawed it out and made some incisions across its body. She then deep fried the fish over medium heat until it was golden (I think it was like 15 minutes). The result was just as I remember these to be in Thailand, so crisp that you can even eat the bones and fins.
Great to know we have these available in Philadelphia!