Roasted Chilli Paste – Nahm Prik Pao
by Kasma Loha-unchit
Why not try making Roasted Chilli Paste from scratch?
Roasted Chilli Paste (nahm prik pao): One of the most commonly used seafood-based chilli pastes in Thai cooking is nahm prik pow, or literally "roasted chilli paste." The main ingredient in this sauce is dried red chillies. It is most frequently made with dried shrimp and gkabpi shrimp paste, but there are also versions made with dried fish instead of shrimp.
In this paste, a ground-up mixture of use roasted and fried ingredients, including plenty of dried red hot chillies, dried shrimp or dried fish, shrimp paste, garlic and shallots, is seasoned with fish sauce, tamarind and palm sugar and cooked together in oil into a thick, well-blended paste with a very dark, burnt red color. Against a fragrant backdrop of roasted flavors, the paste is hot and shrimpy, as well as sweet and tangy, complimenting seafood dishes especially well. It is a source of salty flavors and also hot and sweet flavors.
Nahm prik pow is used to flavor soups, including the popular Hot-and-Sour Prawn Soup; stir-fries with seafood, meats or vegetables; noodle dishes; dipping sauces and dressings for salads. Its sweetness also makes it a likable ready-to-use spread to put on toast, crackers or shrimp chips for a quick snack or on hors d'oeuvres for your party.
Some brands contain more chillies are hotter than others. Two good brands of pre-packaged roasted chilli paste are Butterfly Brand and Mae Ploy ("chilli in oil") – availability may vary in Southeast Asian markets. [Kasma no longer recommends the Pantainorosingh brand because it now contains MSG.] If the Asian markets near you carry a choice of brands, sample a few to find the one you like best. Refrigerate after opening.
Since the combination of flavors and level of hotness and sweetness can vary considerably from brand to brand, make adjustments as necessary in cooking with recipes to flavor dishes to your liking.
If imported roasted chilli paste is not readily available where you live, you can make your own supply with the Roasted Chilli Paste recipe. In fact, if all the roasting is done properly and only the freshest and best-quality ingredients are used, your home-made paste should turn out more fragrant and tasty than any of the store-bought brands. Whether home-made or store-bought, the paste keeps well for a few months when refrigerated in a sealed container.
Our Ingredients Index contains links to many more Thai ingredients.
See Also: She Simmers Blog - Nam Prik Pao: Thai Chilli Jam – Secret Ingredient in Thai Spicy Stir-Fries, Salads, Etc. (Offsite, opens in new window).