Thai fermented fish cake
Local name
Som-fak (northeast) Plaa-fak (north) Plaa-mak (east) Fak-som (some parts of the northeast)
Fresh water fish. Salt, cooked rice, garlic.
Fish normally used:
Channa micropeltes (Cha-do)
Cyclocheilichthys lapogon (Soi)
KrypTOPterus bleekeri (Neua-orn)
NoTOPterus borneensis (Sa-tue)
NoTOPterus chitala (Kraai)
NoTOPterus noTOPterus (Sa-laad)
Pangasius hypophthalmus (Sa-waai)
Pangasius larnaudi (Tay-poh)
Probarbus jullieni (Yee-sok)
Wallagonia attu (Kao)
Wallagonia miostoma (Kao-dam)
Fermentation: 3-5 days.
Storage life: 2 weeks.
Production: Home industry.
Properties: Som-fak is slightly sour and salty with a firm, elastic texture and characteristic aroma. The colour varies from white to brown or red depending on kinds of fish used, but it is brown or brownish grey if mixed varieties of fish are used. The colour also depends on the cleanliness of the fish flesh. The more blood left on the flesh, the darker the final colour.
Candida sp., Lactobacillus brevis., Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus fermentum, Pediococcus pentosaceus, Streptococcus faecalis.
1. Fillet the fish and remove the skin and blood. For fish with a thin body such as Plaa-kraai and Plaa-sa-laad the flesh can be removed from the skin by scraping. Pack the flesh in a cloth-bag and squeeze to compress the water out.
2. Mince the fish and blend in cooked rice (6:1 fish to rice), garlic (20:1) and salt (20:1) by kneading until the mixture gels and forms a sticky paste. Divide the mixture into small portions and tightly wrap in banana leaf or plastic sheet. Whole bird pepper is sometimes added for garnish.
3. Leave the mixture to ferment for 3-5 days. During fermentation it shrinks slightly and some liquid leaches out. If too little salt is used, acidity develops rapidly and the product does not mature properly, causing an unacceptable fishy odour and it becomes soft and soggy. The product should be eaten within a few days.
Som-fak is normally eaten with lettuce, ginger, shallots, chilli and roasted peanuts. It is popular throughout Thailand as a snack with alcoholic drinks. It also cooked by grilling in banana leaves.