PATRICK’S NAM PRIK PAO (Thai roasted chili paste, ½ cup)
¼ cup coconut oil, plus a little more to finish (or the light vegetable oil of your choice)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
dried whole or crushed red chilies, ground to make 3 tablespoons powder (you can grind them in a spice mill or food processor, or use ground cayenne)
½ to 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (or 1 extra tablespoon fish sauce)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla)
2 to 3 tablespoons palm or brown sugar, more to taste
½ to 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (available to Asian food stores)
1-1/2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water
- Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped garlic and shallots and fry them 2 to 3 minutes, until they turn a very light golden brown and slightly crispy (Do not over-brown the garlic, or it will turn bitter). Remove garlic and shallots with a slotted spoon to a bowl to cool. Leave remaining oil in pan.
- Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, combine the prepared chili with the shrimp paste, fish sauce sugar, tamarind paste, lime and water. Add the fried garlic and shallots and pound or process to form a thick paste.
- Return this paste to the frying pan and stir it into the oil over low heat, gently simmering until you get a fairly even consistency. Adjust the consistency by adding a little more water if you find it too thick or more oil if you prefer a “shinier” sauce.
- Taste for seasoning, adding more fish sauce if you’d like it saltier, or more sugar if you’d like it sweeter (I usually add another ½ tablespoon fish sauce and another tablespoon brown sugar to mine).
NOTE: Nam prik pao will keep for several months stored in a covered jar in your refrigerator. Use it as an addition to Thai soups, stir-fries or curries. It’s also wonderful combined with noodles or seafood.