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Prik Nam Pla

In my recent post on Sriracha, I mentioned a popular condiment called Prik Nam Pla.  The direct translation is chili (“prik”) fish sauce (“nam pla”).

Prepared simply by cutting up bird chilies, adding some fish sauce and a squeeze of lime, Prik Nam Pla is a condiment for rice-based dishes such as fried rice or just white rice with sides. “Sides” in this case is a reference to all stir-fry dishes, soups, curries, etc. that are to be eaten alongside rice. We call these sides “Gub Kao” which literally means “with rice.”  Noodle dishes tend to have their own separate set of condiments (a topic for another post ;)).

Since I grew up observing my mother prepare fresh Prik Nam Pla to accompany our “Gub Kao” each dinnertime, I would highly recommend that you make it fresh as needed (as opposed to making a batch for storage).  It is easy to do so, and it tastes much better that way!

A note on bird chilies:

bird chiliBird Chili (or “Bird’s Eye Chili“) is called “Prik Kee Noo” in Thai.  Prik means chili and Kee Noo means…ready for this?… “mouse droppings.”  I know.  Such an unfortunate name for a poor little chili, but it makes sense, really.  Bird chilies are so tiny that the name is clearly a reference to its size.

Don’t let its size fool you, however.  Bird chilies are one of the hottest chilies, ranking 50,000 – 100,000 in the Scoville heat scale, a notch below the habanero, and much more innocuous looking, size-wise.

You can buy bird chilies in Asian grocery stores.  I pack them in plastic wrap and freeze them in zip-lock bags for later use.

You can substitute bird chilies with other high-heat chilies.  Serranos (quite a bit milder though) would be a decent substitute, and to a lesser extent, habaneros and Scotch bonnets (both much spicier so be careful!). Jalapenos would be an ‘ok’ substitute but I find that it adds too much of a green pepper flavor and not enough heat.

Let’s conclude this post with a heat remedy.  Let’s face it – the sheer satisfaction and endorphin high from eating spicy foods can sometimes be followed by an excruciating burning of the tongue.  Dairy can help cool you down.  However, I find the best and quickest relief comes from, literally, a spoonful of sugar. Works every time.

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