Here is a wonderful spicy Nam Tok recipe; you may as well go for it! A crispy fried fish dressed with plenty of fresh herbs, plenty of chilies than some lime juice and fragrant ground roasted rice as a textural binder. It is an unpretentious dish, that is just about what is around and what is available; there is some sort of truth about it, which makes it so wonderful.
If you are trying your first Issan style recipe, than this is the one to go for. It is not complicated to prepare and will show off beautifully the hearty and rustic flavors of Issan.
Ground roasted rice is often used in Thai Northern Eastern style cooking (Issan) in spicy salads as an aromatic and textural agent. Offering an unmistakably hearty and rustic bite to the food.
You can find it in almost any Asian supermarket and it is very simple to prepare. I do hope that you will overcome the temptation of reaching your hands to the supermarket shelve and prepare your own.
The northeast region of Thailand, bordered with Laos in the north and Cambodia in the east, is a rough land to work. Issan, as it known in Thai, suffers droughts and deficiencies, the land gets really dry and unforgiving making in some area the digging for mineral salt a better business than agriculture.
Issan food is made from bricks of simplicity. It reflects its people coarse life and is in general pungent and hot. Eaten with sticky rice, only very little is required to flavor the rice in the hands of the entire family. I love the rustic Issan food and I own a sincere admiration to their culinary ingenuity.
Naem is a fermented sausage made with pork, pork skins, cooked sticky rice (glutinous), fresh garlic, salt, sugar and bird's eye chilies. The sausage is wrapped in banana leaves or synthetic casings and fermented for 3-5 to days at about 30C and 50% humidity. The fermentation process enables the growth of Lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, mostly lactobacilli, which accounts to the sourness of the sausage. The salt acts as an inhibitor preventing the meat from going rotten, allowing Lactic acid bacteria and yeasts to feed on the rice and sugar, fermenting the meat to perfection.