The uniqueness of Thai cuisine and its hefty appeal to foreigners can be attributed to perfectly layered flavors, the discriminating selection of optimal ingredients, and a wide variety and range of dishes.
Nevertheless, at the heart of Thai cuisine lies a group of dishes that are less familiar to the outside world: dishes that speak from the soul of the country, narrating the story of the land, its people, and their culture.
Thai chili relishes (nam prik)
Chili relishes (nam prik) are made by pounding chilies together with salty ingredients such as fermented shrimp paste, salted or dried shrimp, to which various proteins are added. The mix is then further seasoned to sour, salty and sweet flavors.
Bursting with tastes, chili relishes are served in a central bowl and eaten along with rice and a wide variety of condiments, sweet pork, grilled fish, salted meat, and vegetables picked fresh from the garden.
The evolutionary roots of chili relishes are found in the simple blending of chili with salt to season rice.
For today’s menu, I have chosen to present a nam prik recipe that is not very far from that stage in evolution, and that takes almost no time to prepare. For an old-fashioned relish, it offers a pungent kick that can be extremely satisfying in modern settings – and would be politically correct on the menus of health enthusiasts.
The citrus aromatics of the lemongrass are preserved almost intact and go very well with the peppery aroma of pungent fresh chilies. It is served with a range of blanched vegetables, steamed or fried fish, sweet pork, and of course, a bowl of rice – a balanced meal, full of nutrients and health.
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- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp (กุ้งแห้ง)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
- 2 tablespoons lemongrass (ตะไคร้) finely chopped (about 3 stalks)
- 5-7 fresh bird’s eye chili (kee noo suan) (พริกขี้หนูสวนสด)
- 1/2 teaspoon fermented shrimp paste (kapi)(กะปิย่างไฟ)
- 1/2 teaspoon palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice (น้ำมะนาว)
- Pound together dried shrimp and salt.
นำเอากุ้งแห้ง เกลือป่น ลงไปโขลกด้วยกันให้ละเอียด
- Add chopped lemongrass.
- Add bird’s eye chilies.
- Pound together.
- Pound into a smooth paste.
- Add grilled fermented shrimp paste.
- Add palm sugar.
- Add fish sauce.
เติมน้ำปลา 1/2 ช้อนโต๊ะ
- Squeeze a wedge of lime.
- Mix everything together.
- Serve with steamed and fried mackerel, sweet pork, salted duck eggs, and an assortment of fresh and boiled vegetables.
รับประทานแกล้มกับปลาทูทอด หมูหวาน ไข่เค็ม และผักลวก ผักสดต่าง ๆ