Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Shrimp Fried Rice with Nam Prik Pao and Crispy Lemongrass

I saw this recipe online, at Serious Eats and though it cooked yummy. Yummy enough to try anyhoo. But...what about this one ingredient, Nam Prik Pao?
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, 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


  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined 
  • 1 carrot, very thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced, 
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Nam Prik Pao (see note below) 
  • 4 cups leftover cooked long-grain rice 
  • Fish sauce, to taste 
  • 2 TBS. cilantro

  • Procedures 

    With a sharp knife, trim off the ends of lemongrass stalks and slice them crosswise as thinly as possible. Stop when the purple rings inside the stalks disappear. Reserve woody parts of lemongrass for another use. Put lemongrass slices and oil in an 8-inch skillet or a 1-quart saucepan; set over low heat. Stir constantly until lemongrass turns light brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat immediately. The color of the lemongrass will deepen a bit more with the residual heat; at this point, fish out the lemongrass, reserve the oil, and set it aside.

    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.

    But look, I did find something interesting for dessert.
    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, 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.


    1. This sounds delicious! I love looking in supermarkets from other cultures and frequently find recipes with ingredients I've never heard of just as an excuse to go to one! I haven't heard of Nam Prik Pao before, but I think we use something similar called Thai sweet chilli sauce. I might try making this later in the week.

    2. Your dish turned out gorgeous. It sounds like your hunt for Nam Prik Pao was well worth it.

    3. This looks so good. I really wish you would consider opening a business catering for Busy Bloggers! (Or, in my case, Lazy Bloggers!)

    4. Publix down here has "Roasted Red Chili Paste" made my Thai Kitchen and found in the ethnic food aisle, and I am assuming this is the same thing because I use it in all my Thai dishes and it is wonderful! I'm definitely going to try this recipe.

      1. Writing from Italy....ha..ha! Florence!

        No Thai food that I have seen in Florence!

    5. That looks delicious! I'm impressed by how well you're able to photograph your food. Thanks for sharing.

    6. Ymmmmmmm. I have some of that paste. And I agree that walking into an Asian market can be like walking into another country. I'm always adding different veggies and meats. Can't wait to hear about Italy!

    7. I admire your determination - Asian markets are so intimidating!

    8. Oh, this slow wifi is a killer....

      BethF, I have found a Micky D everywhere I have been!
      Ok, just kidding.
      TooFond, thank you!
      JoAnn, one must be brave. On rare occasion I

    9. Wow, you sure are industrious. Looks great, and I have to admit, I have never had lemon grass. You take nice photos of your dishes too.

    10. This dish looks so colorful :) Good for you that you kept looking for the ingredient you needed :)

    11. Wow, caite! That dish looks PERFECT. I bet it tasted wonderful.

      I forget where you are exactly at the Jersey shore, but did you hit the big Asian market on Rt. 1 in the Edison area? I go to one on Rt. 22 in Green Brook area and always struggle to communicate with the employees, but eventually find what I'm looking for. It's like a treasure hunt. LOL. AND I always find some extra goodies to sample ... just like you did with the mango jell-o! Fun!!!

      I use Chinese chili paste with garlic in a lot of dishes.. I wonder if I can use it in place of the Thai version with decent results. My husband would love your recipe.

      When the time comes to seek out Indian ingredients.. Oak Tree Road in Edison. ;)

    12. Oh wow, this looks delicious! So glad you found the ingredient you wanted - I need to go on a culinary adventure in an ethnic food market soon.

    13. We have some great Asian supermarkets - and they are confusing but rewarding (and cheap) to shop in - also the Asian greengrocers are good. I am going to look out for that ingredient next time I go. Have a lovely weekend.

    14. You are adventurous! It looks delicious. Love the vegetable additions.

    15. We actually have several Asian stores in my area which means I'll be searching the shelves for this secret Thai ingredient. It looks yummy!

    16. Red chile paste is an ingredient we keep on hand for Chinese cooking. It should work in this recipe, which looks delicious.


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