Nam prik pao (aka Thai chilli jam) is a highly versatile, delicious, fiery hot, sweet-sour condiment, commonly used to flavour lighter dishes such as tom yam, tom kha, banana flower salad, stir-fries, and both fried and steamed rice. It's every Thai cook's secret weapon - a staple, even - and one you'll want to have if you are serious about cooking authentic-tasting Thai food.
Nam prik pao is also used as a dip (e.g. for pork rinds) and a spread - although to be honest, I've generally been too wimpy to use it as anything other than a flavouring in Thai dishes!
That said, a little of it mixed with vegan sour cream on top of baked potatoes works really well. As does mixing it with some vegan mayo to make a dip for chips (fries) or wedges.
As I said, nam prik pao is very versatile. And it's the embodiment (if a food can be such a thing!) of the ubiquitous Thai flavour profile of hot, sour, salty, sweet.
When we lived in Thailand, finding vegan nam prik pao wasn't difficult but here in Central Europe, it's nigh on impossible. I've not even seen the non-vegan stuff. If there is somewhere that sells it, I've not found it in Slovenia, Croatia, or Serbia.
So I make it at home.
Along with garlic and shallots, tamarind, palm sugar, and chillies of course, nam prik pao is traditionally made with dried shrimp, fish sauce, and shrimp paste. Naturally, I don't use the last three ingredients, so I use white miso and my vegan fish sauce instead.
It may not be the most authentic way to make this condiment - not least because I don't roast my shallots, garlic, and chillis over coals, and I don't pound everything together in a mortar; nevertheless, my method still delivers an almost-authentic taste, and it doesn't take ages to make.
Plus, in my opinion, it's much better than the stuff you can buy in jars. If you can ever find it, that is!
Nam prik, by the way, simply translates as 'water chilli' i.e. chilli paste. In Thai cuisine, chilli pastes are legion - I don't think there's any one standard nam prik recipe. Nam prik pao means 'roasted chilli paste'. It is however, very definitely more a jam than a paste.
Whether you use this nam prik pao as a dip, a spread, or an ingredient, you can rest easy knowing you're getting authentic Thai flavours but with no animal ingredients. I call that a definite win!
Easy Vegan Nam Prik Pao
- fiery hot
- simple and quick to make
A little nam prik pao goes a long way, and adds so much flavour, however you use it. Why not make some today? I'm sure you'll love it.
Gin hai aroi na kha!
Easy Vegan Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Jam)
- 12 large cloves garlic peeled and finely sliced
- 2 large shallots peeled and finely sliced
- 10 dried pequin chillies seeds an' all!
- 6 fresh Thai chillies coarsely sliced
- 1 tbsp white miso paste
- 150 g palm sugar
- 4 tbsp tamarind paste
- 2.5 cm piece of galangal (1"), chopped
- 6 tbsp vegan fish sauce
- 125 ml water
- 225 ml vegetable oil
- Fry the shallots in 100ml oil for 3-5 mins, until they are golden brown and crispy.
- Remove from the wok, and place onto a couple of pieces of kitchen roll to drain.
- Add the garlic to the same wok, and again, fry until golden and crispy - around 3 mins.
- At the same time, in another wok (or skillet), over a medium heat, dry-roast the dried chillies (no need to use any oil) for around 2 mins, until they begin to give off some chilli aroma. Don't inhale this! Keep the chillis moving all the time to prevent burning.
- Place the shallots, garlic, dried chillis, and the remaining ingredients - except the oil - into a food processor or blender, and blitz for a few seconds, until you have a thin, coarse paste.
- Transfer the paste to a skillet or , and cook for 15-20 mins over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it has reached a thick-ish, jam-like consistency.
- Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Some oil will rise to the top, that's fine - no need to skim it off.
- Store in an airtight jar in the 'fridge - it'll keep for several months.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tbsp = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml