If you're a fan of "real" Thai food, you know the chefs like to pack a punch of flavour with each and every dish. While some sort of "heating" element is almost always present, the undeniable focus is on balancing the palate with notes of sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy. Since my mom's trip to Thailand many years ago, she's often commented that the restaurants, curry pastes and general recipes available to us in Canada are nothing like the meals she enjoyed. We've been searching for a remedy to this ever since.
While I can't promise this will be the answer for everyone craving Thai, we discovered that for us the secret is (literally) in the sauce. Dipping sauces for everything abound, and add that punch of balance to a skewed main dish. This one, adapted from The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet to Fiery & Everything in Between, is a Northern Thai specialty that utilizes roasted peppers, garlic, tomatoes and herbs along with a squeeze of lime and, traditionally, fish sauce or shrimp paste. To keep things vegetarian (and improve shelf life), I turned to fish mint, the undeniably fishy-flavoured herb occasionally found in Asian dishes. It added the needed flavour without any "off" fermented notes and was handy since I had it in my garden!
If you want to serve this spicy, sour, pungent dipper the traditional northern Thai way, place a few spoonfuls in individual dishes alongside roasted or sauteed vegetables, pork cracklings, fried chicken skin and/or sticky rice. I personally like it just with plain ol sticky rice!
Nam Prik Num
Adapted from The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet to Fiery & Everything in Between by Judith Finlayson © 2016
Makes ~2 cups, 16 (2 tbsp) servings
1 large bell pepper, halved and seeded
2 hot banana peppers, halved and seeded
3 Ring of Fire or serrano chiles, halved
5 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes (low-sodium canned is fine)
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
¼ cup minced fish mint
¼ cup minced green onion
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ tsp sea salt
- Heat the broiler.
- Place peppers, and whole garlic on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Broil 8 minutes, until garlic is beginning to blacken and peppers are soft.
- Transfer bell and banana peppers to a bowl and cover for 3 minutes.
- Peel and transfer all the peppers, along with accumulated juices and roasted garlic, to food processor.
- Add remaining ingredients and pulse until chopped and well combined
- Transfer to a non-metallic container or serving bowl and let stand at room temperature until the flavors are melded, at least 30 minutes, or can 20 minutes in a waterbath.
Total Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.6 mg
Total Carbs: 2.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 0.6 g