What is it and where the heck do I get it?
Nam Prik Pao (น้ำพริกเผา) is one of the most — if not the most — versatile composite ingredients in Thai cooking that I can think of. It is intense and complex, but not in an in-your-face kind of way; it also features pretty much all of the tastes associated with traditional Thai food sans the usual herbs. Each spoonful packs so much flavor, and a little goes a long way.
Believe me when I say that I hate telling people what to do or what not to do. But in this case, I consider familiarity with Nam Prik Pao and how to use it to be necessary for, you see, this condiment permeates modern Thai cuisine. If you’re a Thai food enthusiast, or on your way to becoming one, and you haven’t made an acquaintance with this ingredient, please allow me the pleasure of introducing to you Nam Prik Pao, the “secret arsenal” of Thai restaurants worldwide, a pantry staple in Thai households, and your new best friend... from She Simmers
OK, I looked on Amazon and yes, I could get it there.
Really, what can you not find on Amazon?
But it seemed expensive and it was two jars. I can not imagine ever using 2 jars when I only needed 1/4 cup. So I Googled Asian Food markets in my area and there, just a couple of towns away, a 10 minute drive, was an Asian Supermarket with great write ups on Yelp. I had seem it, yes...in a rather down on it's luck shopping center...but had never been in there.
So off I went! Well, never have I been so overwhelmed and confused in a food store. How many fruits and vegetables I had never heard of. So many huge bags of different sorts of rice. So many things that I had no idea about.
Aisles...two whole big aisles... with hundreds and hundreds of jars of stuff that might be Nam Prik Pao. With labels in a number of Asian languages, none of which I speak. I looked for assistance, but ran into a language barrier there as well. But fear not! I did not give up. I looked and looked, searching for those words, Nam Prik Pao, somewhere on a label.
I found it!
Two or three brands in fact.
And I got the lemongrass.
And a few other interesting things.
Shrimp Fried Rice with Nam Prik Pao and Crispy Lemongrass
Heat a 12-inch skillet or wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved lemongrass-infused oil to the skillet, add in the carrot, onion, pepper, scallions and saute 2-3 minutes, followed by shrimp; stir. Once shrimp starts to turn opaque, about 2 minutes, add rice and Nam Prik Pao; stir until rice kernels are thoroughly coated with Nam Prik Pao.
Season fried rice with fish sauce to taste. Top with chopped cilantro.
Notes: Nam Prik Pao, also known as Thai chili jam, is available at most well-stocked Asian grocery stores and online. It also goes by "roasted chili paste" or "roasted chili paste in soybean oil."
Although Nam Prik Pao is made with hot chilies, I did not really find it hot at all. Well, maybe just a tiny bit, bit more full of complex flavors than spicy. Interesting ingredient. I just have to wonder what all those other jars in the supermarket might hold.
At least I think it is for dessert...You always have room for Jell-IO!
If you clicked over to the original recipe, you will notice I took a few liberties. The addition of the vegetables is my idea. Hey, it looks pretty and we all need out veggies! I added what I had on hand...I think I read somewhere that peas are a common addition to Thai fried rice. But I may be wrong! Anyhoo, you could add all sorts of vegetables that you like...celery, bok choy, tomato, garlic...no idea why I left that out..snow peas... Personally, I am off to look for more recipes with Nam Prik Pao, since I have that jar in the frig to use up.
This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.