Kapi pla is a hand-mixed fermented shrimp paste relish. It appears in Lady Plean Passakornrawong’s 1908 culinary bible, Maae Khruaa Huaa Bpaa, in two forms. The first variation is seasoned to a sour-salty profile, while the second displays sweetness as well. Because fermented shrimp paste (kapi) is the key ingredient and the star of the dish, Lady Plean recommended the use of an exceptionally pungent kapi in this recipe.
What follows is a kapi pla recipe by Princess Jongjittanom Dissakul (อาหารของโปรด ของหม่อมเจ้าจงจิตรถนอม ดิศกุล) – a version that elicited high praise from King Rama V. It is also one of the only relish recipes published in Favorite Dishes (อาหารของโปรด) that has quantified measurements. The recipe is very detailed and lists the cutting styles, the order in which to combine the ingredients, and other helpful hints for good results.
This recipe sounds a lot like the recipe for jungle chili relish (น้ำพริกป่า; naam phrik bpaa), with the addition of bitter orange and the use of dried shrimp powder instead of grilled shrimp meat. However, due to its historical significance and its distinct flavor, I believe it deserves a separate section.
Similarly, Lady Plean expressed concern about the odor of fermented shrimp paste (kapi) and recommended using only high-quality, pungent kapi. Princess Dissakul advises stirring the fermented shrimp paste with citrus juices in order to mellow its aroma, and only then proceeding to mix in the rest of the ingredients.
Lady Plean serves the relish with fresh vegetables, sweet pork, grilled catfish and salted duck eggs, while Princess Dissakul prefers to serve it with fried crispy fish, watermelon, morning glory, eggplant or cucumber.
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- 4 tablespoons dried shrimp pounded to powder (กุ้งแห้งป่น)
- 2 tablespoons fermented shrimp paste (kapi)(กะปิย่างไฟ) grilled
- 1 1/2 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย) thinly sliced, crosswise
- 2 1/2 tablespoon shallots (หอมแดง) thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh yellow chili (phrik leuang) (พริกเหลือง)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons bitter orange peel (som.saa)(ผิวนส้มซ่า)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (น้ำมะนาว)
- 1 tablespoon bitter orange juice (som.saa)(น้ำส้มซ่า) of one large fruit, peeled before squeezed
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- watermelon (แตงโม)
- snakehead fish, semi-salted and sun-dried (ปลาช่อนแดดเดียว) fried
- fresh vegetables (ผักสด)
- Grill the fermented shrimp paste (kapi) in banana leaves. Set aside. (Video: How to grill fermented shrimp paste in banana leaves)
- Peel and thinly slice the shallots lengthwise.
- Peel and thinly slice the garlic crosswise.
- Peel the bitter orange. Cut the peels into thin slices and soak them in water to remove some of their bitterness.
- Squeeze the bitter orange’s juice from a fully peeled fruit.
- Squeeze the juice from two limes to yield approximately two tablespoons.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the lime juice and bitter orange juice.
- Add the fermented shrimp paste (kapi) and dissolve it in the citrus juices. Continue to stir until the smell of the kapi has faded and mellowed.
- Add the dried shrimp powder.
- Taste and finalize seasoning the salty element seasoning to a sour-salty flavor profile. Add salt and fish sauce gradually because the base saltiness of the kapi you are using might vary.
- Add palm sugar, and season to a desired sour-sweet-salty or sour-salty-sweet flavor profile.
- Add the sliced garlic and sliced shallots.
- Add the sliced yellow chilies. Reserve some for the garnish.
- Serve and garnish with the rest of the chilies and the sliced and washed bitter orange peel.