Well, the Nam Prik Pao happened…
Firstly, we had a lovely pile of shallots, garlic and freshly harvested Thai chili peppers from my little garden:
Then, two hours, a pair of gloves, many tears and a pile of trimmings later, this is what I had… approximately 30 tablespoons each of chopped garlic, shallots and chilis:
During the execution of the instructions in the recipe, I found a problem. The directions were “fry chilis until they begin to change color.” Well, of course they changed color immediately when I dropped them into the hot peanut oil, but I don’t think this is what they had in mind. The color changed subtly as the frying went on, but I realized that there wasn’t going to be a magic transformation… they were just getting gradually less red. This kind of thing frustrates me no end… how hard would it have been to say what the color was that we were aiming for?
Anyway, I let them fry for a bit until they looked pretty well-cooked, but not burned or anything like that. Then much pounding and mixing, until the final fry-up in the pan. My husband walked into the kitchen, waved his hands around and said “It smells like a toxic waste dump in here!” as he fled.
Hmph. Dissed in my own kitchen! Well, he apologized later, and I suppose the mix of pungent roots, chilis, shrimp and fish did have a bit of a strong odor. But I bottled up the resulting mix, and here it is, along with a bit mixed up with a bowl of jasmine rice:
The Nam Prik Pao is delicious, if powerful… it’s got an earthy base from the shrimp, but the chilis by far are the strongest flavor. A very little goes a long way… just a tiny spoonful is enough for a bowl of rice. Next, I’d like to try using it as a stand-in for the chilis and garlic in a curry recipe and see how it holds up.
I have nine little jars… enough to keep us in spice over the winter, and a few for folks who I hope will appreciate them. It was a lot of work, but I think it’s going to pay off down the road. I’d love to let you have a taste, if you’re in the neighborhood!