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tinned mackerel in tomato sauce with spicy herby thai dressing (ยำปลากระป๋อง)


The thing about Thai food that's so amazing is that all flavor profiles are present in any given dish; sweet, sour, spicy, salty, bitter, and umami. And between that, there's different sub-flavors that come into play. There's the back-of-the-throat spiciness of black pepper versus the tip-of-the-tongue spiciness of Thai chilli, the heavy sweetness of coconut milk against the rounded sweetness of palm sugar. Because of this endless combination of flavor complexity, I'm convinced it's the best food on the planet. I miss Thai food a lot, but I've always saved myself for the annual trip back home or for the rare occasion when my mum comes to visit me in America. To bide my time, I love making this quintessentially quotidien dish that consists of tinned mackerel in tomato sauce with a spicy, zippy, herby dressing called ยำปลากระป๋อง ("yum pla-krapong") and eat it over fluffy jasmine rice or an omelette (or both!)


Note: Most of Thai cooking is done in a highly intuitive fashion, everything is made to your taste and liking, which I find quite magical but inevitably left me careless with my measurements. I've listed loose measurements but I encourage everyone to taste as you go and find your perfect flavor balance, whatever that may be!



  • 1 can of mackerel in tomato sauce
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass (peeled and tough ends cut)
  • 2 small shallots 
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2-4 thai chili peppers (adjust for spice level)
  • 3-4 culantro leaves
  • 1 lime (start with half, add more to taste)
  • A couple dashes of fish sauce



  1. Separate the mackerels and set aside, place the tomato sauce into a small bowl.
  2. Prep herbs by thinly slicing lemongrass, shallots, culantro leaves and roughly mince the garlic cloves and Thai chili peppers. Set aside.
  3. Add all the ingredients into the tomato sauce, leaving a tiny bit of each for garnishing later.
  4. Add fish sauce and lime juice, toss lightly until fragrant and herbaceous, adjust to taste by adding more.
  5. Spoon the herby tomato sauce onto the mackerels. Sprinkle the remaining herbs to garnish.
  6. Tada! You’re done!

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