Burning (chili) love.
Before anything else, you should know that this recipe comes with a warning. A real one, not the it’s-oh-so-delicious-it’s-addictive type. This time, it’s the real deal, the do-not-attempt-this-at-home-without-adult-supervision warning. This Thai sauce (more like a relish), as good and useful as it is to have around the house to season and enrich various dishes, can prove quite tricky to make for 2 reasons.
- First, if you’re not careful enough, you will experience some burning sensations that will make you hate me. This of course depends on the type of chilies you use. I would strongly (STRONGLY) urge you to use kitchen gloves when you peel the chilies. Sadly, I did not (thought I’m super
manwoman) and was ‘blessed’ with few hours of blissful burning ‘pleasure’ all around my fingers.
- Second, your eyes will begin to burn after you’ve looked at the chilies for long enough.
Ok, the second one I made up. But simply to prove my point: if your chilies are super super hot or even if they are just regular hot, be extra careful how you work with them. Before you even begin, make sure you won’t have any itch you need to scratch or hair that needs to be put in it’s place. There must not be anything worse than feeling that burning sensation around your eyes or nose.
Am not trying on purpose to put you off or scare you into not trying this Thai relish. Because you must! I just want to make sure that this won’t be the last of my recipe’s you’ll try or the last time you stop by my kitchen.
Now if you’re still reading, you’re probably scrolling and wondering why should you even bother with this relish, when there are so many other dishes on the planet just waiting for you to give them a go. Well, simply put, it’s worth it. This sauce is for Thais what salt & pepper is for Westerners; you can find it on any table, in any restaurant or home, or even at street food stalls. It’s added to almost everything from noodles and hot jasmine rice, to hard boiled eggs or any delicious Thai dish you can think of. So then, it must be super good right? Right!
There are probably as many variations of this dish (Nam Prik), as there are households in Thailand. Most commonly, the chilies, onion and garlic are not grilled, they are simply added raw, finely minced/sliced, to a bowl of fish sauce and allowed to sit to develop flavors. We’ve had that quite few times (and love it) but we’ve discovered this version more like a relish at a Thai table during a local food event in Perth (and we love it slightly more).
We’ve tried and tested several recipes to successfully recreate the taste and we believe this is finally it. We also just found out it comes from Phana, northeastern Thailand, and it is called Jaeow (seriously no clue how to pronounce it).
- 340g chilies (we used a mix of Thai, birds eye and long red)
- 1 medium onion
- 15 small – medium garlic cloves (1 head)
- 2 small – medium Roma tomatoes
- juice of 1-2 limes (if they’re juicy, just use one; if not, two)
- 1 TBSP fish sauce
- 1 tsp raw sugar (only if needed, see below)
- Slice onion in 1cm wide rings.
- Slice Roma tomatoes in half.
- On a hot BBQ plate place the chilies and roast until they pop and slightly charred. Alternatively, you can place them on an oven tray and oven-grill them.
- Once chilies are done, place them in a covered bowl and allow to steam.
- BBQ the onion rings and the tomato halves until slightly charred.
- Place garlic cloves with the skin on in an aluminium foil and place on grill as well. This helps roast the garlic without burning it.
- Once all ingredients are done, remove the skin off the chilies, tomatoes and garlic (for the garlic, you can simply squeeze the pulp out).
- Add all the ingredients (chilies, onion, garlic, tomatoes, lime juice, fish sauce) to a mixer/chopper and process for few seconds until a paste forms. You can leave it as smooth or as chunky as you prefer. Taste and, if needed, add 1 tsp of sugar to balance the flavors.
- If the consistency is too thick, add a bit of water.
Recipe adapted from Phana Thai Life.
Ta-ta and keep safe around chilies!