Nam prik – technically it translates to “chile water” but Night + Market chef, Kris Yenbamroong, explains it can be a relish, dip, chutney, salsa or a condiment depending on how you’re using it. In an interview on Good Food (below) he explains that, “Thai people are always looking for things to dip in other things.”
Given Americans fascination with dipping, I think nam prik has a pretty good chance of hitting the mainstream; but unfortunately for those who rely on things that come in jars, Yenbamroong says there isn’t a good option on grocery shelves yet. The good news is that he agreed to share his recipe for Nam Prik Noom which he says is his favorite of all the nam priks. Traditionally it’s made in Chiang Rai (Northern Thailand) and incorporates Anaheim chiles, shallots and lots of garlic. The consistency is simliar in texture to cooked eggplant. It’s pretty addicting stuff. Check out the recipe below, or if you’re heading to Night + Market order the sai uah – an herb sausage served with nam prik noom and cucumbers.
Nam Prik Noom (Chiang Rai Chile Relish)
(Makes roughly 1 quart)
Kris says, “This is my favorite of all nam priks. It comes from Thailand’s northern regions–Chieng Rai and Chieng Mai. Nam prik is a tough word to define–it’s somewhere between a relish, salsa, salad or condiment. Some have the consistency of fine chile paste, some are watery, some, like this one, are similar in texture to cooked eggplant. In fact, at NIGHT+MARKET, this often gets confused for eggplant salad.”
A dozen or so Anaheim Chiles
8-10 whole shallots
20 cloves of garlic
Coarsely-chopped cilantro for garnish
Fish Sauce to taste (approximately 4 tbsp)
Sugar to taste (approximately 2 tbsp)
Skewer garlic & shallots and throw on a hot grill along with all the chiles. *I usually leave the skewers in a cold water bath overnight before using them as the added moisture helps keep them from burning.
Make sure to char the skin of the chiles, then turn. Char the garlic and shallots equally.
Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Hold the chile using the stem as a handle and peel off the charred skin. I usually leave on more of the skin than do most people since I like that burnt flavor. If that’s not your thing, peel off all the skin and discard.
Using a small knife, cut lengthwise down the middle and remove the seeds. If you like it hot, leave some seeds, which add a decent kick. Remove the stems.
Peel the shallots. They’ll smell sweet and smokey.
Pound the garlic and shallots in a mortar (if you do not have a mortar, use a food processor). You’re going for a texture that’s coarse throughout, so depending on the capacity of your food processor, you may want to do this in batches.
Next, add the Anaheims and pound them out. Keep pounding until the chile starts to become stringy.
Add fish sauce and sugar, stir and adjust for taste. The nam prik should taste equally sweet and salty, with underlying heat. *If you like it extra hot, throw a handful of Serrano peppers on the grill, and mash them in. This will add some heat, although Nam Prik Noom is not meant to be extremely hot.
Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice before serving. That’s not very traditional, but I find that it livens things up a bit. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.