If there’s one thing I miss about being in Thailand… is Nam Jim Jaew. In Singapore, we’re blessed to have Thai food at our disposal, I mean the stuff is everywhere. For some reason, I can never seem to find a place that would serve Nam Jim Jaew, a Thai dipping sauce that’s the perfect blend of spicy, tangy, sour and salty. It originates from the Northern region of Thailand, and is part of Isaan cuisine.
The Thai food in Singapore is more the central Thailand variety, so your tom yams, green curries and basil stir fries. But darn do I love me some Isaan cuisine. My favourite ways of using it is to dip grilled chicken and steak. I’ve also love going traditional and dipping some glutinous sticky rice in it for an immediate flavour bomb.
I set out to make my own Nam Jim Jaew, and I am so surprised to learn it’s not that hard to make at all. The ingredients are all not hard to find too. My recipe is the a good base to start off, feel free to adjust according to your preference. I personally like mine more sweet, and spicy, so I added half a teaspoon more of sugar and loaded up on the Thai Chilli Flakes, heh heh. Sometimes I would crush a fresh garlic and mix it in too.
The base makeup of Nam Jim Jaew is the sugar, fish sauce and the tamarind for the trifecta of sweet, salty and sour. It’s not a chilli dipping sauce without a helping of Thai chilli flakes. Lime juice brightens up the sauce, while cilantro gives it freshness. And then we have Khao Kua, or Toasted Rice Powder. This gives the Nam Jim Jaew that grainy texture and delicious nutty flavour. Nam Jim Jaew is wonderfully complex.
To make Toasted Rice Powder or Khao Kua
Khao Kua is typically made with glutinous rice, but you can also just use regular regular jasmine rice. I don’t wash my rice – the heat from toasting is suppose to kill of germs – but you can if you want. Make sure the rice is dried fully before toasting.
To make Khao Kua, add the glutinous rice to a pan, and toast over very low heat. It should take a while. Continuously swivel the pan to get an even toast, and so you don’t burn the rice. Don’t burn the rice!
It’s better to be underdone than burnt. It’s done once it turns a nice, brown colour, and it smells nutty and toasty, which has been described as popcorn. Not all the rice will be brown, you can have a mixture of white and brown rice. This is fine.
Grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar, or be like me and just use a spice mill or grinder. For the purposes of this recipe, I toasted 1 tablespoon of rice and I had leftover. You can make a big batch and keep in the pantry for future use.
The tamarind is what really gives it that mellow sourness. I used Tamarind Paste, which is concentrated tamarind pulp. This is the exact brand I use, but they should all have similar concentrations.
If you are using tamarind pulp, use 1 tablespoon of tamarind pulp, to 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste. With tamarind pulp, add 3-4 tablespoons of warm water, and work the pulp so that you have tamarind juice. Discard the seeds.
Nam Jim Jaew | Spicy, Tangy Thai Chili Dipping SauceCourse: Uncategorized
- Combine all of the ingredients together! Done.