Thai Chili Sauce 'Nam Prik Pao' Recipe

Nam Prik Pao Chili Sauce
Nam Prik Pao Chili Sauce - my Mother-in-Law's Secret Family Recipe!. Photo taken by D.Schmidt for About.com (Copyright)
  • 18 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 8 mins
  • Yield: 1 small jar
Ratings (25)

There are numerous versions of homemade nam prik pao chili sauce in Thailand - each cook makes it his or her own way. Although you can buy chili sauce in most Asian food stores, you won't find one that's as good as homemade. Also, making my own means there are no preservatives and I get to add my own healthy oil, adjusting the spicy, sour, sweet, and salty flavorings according to my liking. Nam prik pao chili sauce makes an excellent accompaniment for soups such as Tom Yum Kung, and is an absolute must with noodle dishes and, well, nearly anything you'd like to spice up. ENJOY!

What You'll Need

  • Makes a small jar of Nam Prik Pao - about 1/2 cup (a little goes a long way!)
  • 1/4 cup canola or coconut oil, plus a little more to finish (or light vegetable oil of your choice)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • dried whole OR crushed red chilies ground to make 3 Tbsp. powder (you can also use cayenne pepper which is already ground)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. shrimp paste, OR 1 extra Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoon  palm or brown sugar, or more to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (available at Asian or Indian food stores)
  • 1+1/2 tablespoon  lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. water

How to Make It

  • Preparation Tips: Although traditionally the shallots and garlic are finely chopped by hand, you can also use a food processor for this task. Just be sure not to over-process, or you will end up with a mushy mess. What you want are individual-looking pieces of shallot and garlic.
  • If Using Whole Dried Chilies: simply place them in a coffee grinder (or food processor) and blitz until you get a powdery consistency.
    1. Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped shallots and garlic, frying until they turn a very light golden brown and slightly crispy (2-3 minutes). Tip: try not to over-brown the garlic, or it will turn bitter.
    2. Remove garlic and shallots with a slotted spoon from the oil and set in a bowl to cool. Leave remaining oil in the pan.
    3. Using a pestle & mortar OR food processor/mini-chopper, combine the prepared chili with the shrimp paste, fish sauce, sugar, tamarind, lime, and water. Also, add the fried garlic and shallots.
    4. Pound or process altogether to form a thick paste. Return this paste to your frying pan and stir it into the oil over low heat, gently simmering until you get a fairly even consistency. Adjust the consistency by adding a little more water if you find it too thick, or more oil if you prefer a "shinier" sauce.
    5. Adjust the taste, adding more fish sauce if you'd like it saltier, or more sugar if you'd like it sweeter (I usually end up adding another 1/2 Tbsp. of fish sauce and another Tbsp. of brown sugar to mine).
    6. Nam Prik Pao will keep for several months stored in a covered jar in your refrigerator. Use your Nam Prik Pao as an addition to Thai soups, or added as a flavor booster to Thai stir-fries and curry sauces. Also wonderful when stir-fried with seafood, or as an accompaniment to noodles. Enjoy!