This is a chili jam similar to what is commonly sold under the name of roasted chili paste (naam phrik phao; น้ำพริกเผา). It is widely used as a condiment in salad dressings, soups, and seasoning for stir-fried dishes. I like to have control over my pantry ingredients, so I always use homemade naam phrik phao. Furthermore, since it is a basic ingredient used in so many dishes, anything less than the best will drastically impair the quality of your dishes.
Chili jam is made to last: To ensure that it will preserve well, one must follow a strict and meticulous protocol. The process starts by selecting only the best ingredients, which are carefully sorted and those with imperfections discarded. Each ingredient is then washed clean in water and allowed to dry completely to reduce the moisture content and/or any impurities that could impair its storage capacity.
The garlic and shallots are sliced lengthwise along the growth axis of the plant, into thin slices. It is important to slice them to a uniform thickness so they will fry equally.
The ingredients are fried in order of moisture content, from moistest to driest. It is critical to start with cold oil, in order to warm the moisture trapped in the shallots and garlic and allow it to evaporate before the sugars caramelize and brown. Thus, low heat and consistent stirring are crucial in achieving light golden and crispy fried shallots and garlic without compromising their flavor.
The dried shrimp are fried whole until crispy. After turning off the heat and allowing the oil to cool slightly, the dried chilies are fried with the residual heat until they attain a deep shiny red color – but do take care not to burn them.
All the fried ingredients are pounded together, and the relish is seasoned in the mortar and pestle.
Chili jam should be only gently seasoned; it should always require re-seasoning to a bolder and more defined character as an element in the final dish.
Seasoning of the all-purpose chili jam follows the ratio of 5:3:3: whereby 5 parts by volume of palm sugar are added to every 3 parts of fish sauce and 3 parts of tamarind paste. This will install a sour-sweet-salty flavor profile.
However, the sensations of each taste will be fairly close to each other, giving only a blurred impression of three separate distinct tastes. To prolong the time gap between the perceptions of sour, salty, and sweet tastes, and allow us to distinguish each taste more precisely, we add galangal powder as an astringent and palate-drying agent, resulting in a more pleasant bite overall.
Finally, the paste is fried with some of the residual oil remaining from frying the ingredients. This dries up any moisture introduced by the seasoning and caramelizes the sugars, rounding the sweetness of the jam. This final frying step is nearly instantaneous; as soon as the jam has a lovely sheen, remove it from the heat.
Essential Cooking Skills:
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- 5 parts palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 3 parts fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 3 parts tamarind paste (น้ำมะขามเปียก)
- 120 g dried red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแห้ง)
- 300 g crispy fried shallots (หอมแดงเจียว) weight before frying
- 200 g crispy fried garlic (กระเทียมเจียว) weight before frying
- 80 g deep-fried crispy dried shrimp (กุ้งแห้งทอด) weight before frying
- neutral tasting cooking oil (น้ำมันพืช) for deep frying
- 430 g palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 192 g fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 225 g tamarind paste (น้ำมะขามเปียก)
- 5 g galangal powder (ข่าป่น)
- Wash and deseed the chilies, spread on a paper towel, and allow to dry. Set aside.
- Peel, wash, and slice the shallots lengthwise into thin, equal slices, spread on a paper towel, and allow to dry. Set aside.
- Peel, wash, and slice the garlic lengthwise into thin, equal slices, spread on a paper towel, and allow to dry. Set aside.
- Wash the dried shrimp. Roast on a skillet until they dry up. Set aside.
- To a cold wok, add the sliced shallots, cover with cold oil, and turn the heat to medium-low.
- Stir the shallots constantly in one direction only until they are very light golden in color. The shallots will develop a deeper color as they cool.
- Strain the oil and immediately spread the shallots on a paper towel, this will allow them to cool down before they absorb any moisture from the air.
- Repeat the same process with the garlic. Use the same oil.
- Fry the dried shrimp until they are crisp. Remove the dried shrimp from the oil, spread them on a paper towel, and set them aside.
- TURN OFF THE HEAT and allow the oil to cool before frying the dried chilies. As you stir the chilies, feel their texture. The chilies should crisp up and attain a shiny deep red color without getting burned. Remove the chilies from the oil, spread them on a paper towel, and set them aside.
- In a mortar and pestle, pound to a semi-smooth consistency the fried chilies, dried shrimp with the fried shallots, and garlic.
- Mix in the seasoning and galangal powder in the ratios indicated.
- Move the jam back into the wok, cover with the oil left from frying the ingredients, and turn on the heat. Fry for only a few seconds until the sugar caramelizes and the jam gets a nice sheen.
- Allow to cool. Store in a well-sealed container with a bit of oil on top.