Most good fried food is crispy. But crispy catfish at Ganda Siamese Cuisine is an entirely different fried animal: not really crispy at all. The fish is sliced up and fried past an inch of its life and covered in a fiery red paste full of galangal, chiles and Kaffir lime leaves, becoming a chewy, crunchy, pungent catfish jerky, more complex and heady than one could possibly expect to find on a steam table. The frying is so prolonged that almost all the moisture is drawn out, and its bones, all of which are left intact, become edible and brittle like hard candy.
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The creeping, pepper-borne heat only intensifies as we pile on the sliced green chiles in the jar next to our elbows, and the only distraction is an episode of Ellen playing on the flat-screen TV, the waitress sweetly chuckling along. Our runny noses, full stomachs and aching teeth are indications that it's time to pay our check and leave, having weathered the out-of-body experience. The white-haired Thai grandma at a nearby table smiles proudly as we leave, official members of the crispy catfish club.
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