A dish, like a smell or a color, can be so evocative in its place or time. This dish always takes me back to the food stalls of Chiang Mai with its vivid color and tartly savor.
In this fast-moving world, it is good sometimes to pause for a moment and to have a dish that emphasizes relaxation and allows you to enjoy a feast of textures and colors because it is never eaten alone. It is served with a rich plate of accompanying vegetables pleasantly arranged, and with a group of good friends; all sharing the centrally placed bowl of the shiny red relish.
nam phrik ong chili relish traces its origins to the “Tai Yai” minority (ไทยใหญ่ Shan people) and is traditionally made with a local variety of grape tomatoes ( บะเขือส้ม; ba kheuua sohm) and fermented soybeans cakes (Tua Nao ; ถั่วเน่า). The local tomatoes variety is especially sour and juicy but you can safely substitute them with cherry tomatoes and skip the Tua Nao if not available.
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- 500 g minced pork meat (เนื้อหมูบด)
- 2 cups Northern Thai sour cherry tomatoes (มะเขือส้ม) halved and bruised.
- 1/2 cup neutral tasting cooking oil (น้ำมันพืช)
- 2 Chinese garlic (กระเทียมจีน)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (น้ำตาลทราย)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
Chili Paste Ingredients
- Start preparing the chili paste by pounding in a mortar and pestle the dry chilies with the salt as abrasive. Pound it very fine.
- On an open flame lightly roast the Tua Nao until fragrant.
- Add roasted Tua Nao to the mortar and pound it fine.
- Add chopped lemongrass to the mortar and keep pounding until the lemongrass is well incorporated.
- Add shallots, garlic, and pound together until you get a smooth and homogeneous paste.
- Add fermented shrimp paste and mix well. Set aside.
- In a mortar and pestle pound the chili paste, minced pork and tomatoes until the chili paste is well incorporated into the pork.
- Set a wide frying pan with the oil on a medium heat and lightly fry the garlic until light golden.
- Add the chili paste, tomatoes and pork mixture and fry while constantly mixing until the pork is done. The pork will release its juices into the pan, keep frying until all the pork liquids evaporates and you can hear again the sizzling frying sounds.
- In a mortar and pestle roughly bruise the remaining tomatoes to release their juices.
- Add the tomatoes to the frying pan and keep frying on a medium low heat until the tomatoes soften and releases most of their juices.
- Season flavors with salt and sugar and add bit of water if too dry.
- Serve with an assortment of fresh seasonal vegetables.