How to make easy Nam Prik Pao, or Thai roasted chilli paste, from scratch.
Nam Prik Pao is a thick, savoury sweet paste that is used frequently in Thai cuisine. This is my easy nam prik pao from scratch, and I use it almost as much as I use sambal!
I use to frequent Bangkok a lot for work, and I try to make trips to the supermarket to stock up on cheap Thai ingredients. One of the items I would always haul back would be Nam Prik Pao! I never thought to make it myself, since I can easily buy it for very cheap.
My favourite (and actually the only brand I use) would be Mae Pranom. They also sell a mean Tom Yum Paste that I love too! I never realised how HARD it was to find this in Singapore, until the pandemic. If you’re in Singapore by the way, you can find this at Golden Mile.
Anyway I decided to make this, and it was easier than I expected! I have all of the ingredients in my pantry already, and it’s very similar to Sambal.
What is Nam Prik Pao used for?
With dried chillies as its base, Nam Prik Pao is very similar to Sambal. Nam Prik Pao is a lot more sweet and sour. Since the dried chillies are roasted or dry toasted first, it does impart a different depth of flavour to sambal. Nam Prik Pao also tends to be a lot more thick and pasty.
Much like sambal, Nam Prik Pao is a versatile condiment.
The first time I bought a jar of Nam Prik Pao, I mistook it for Tom Yam Paste. Compared to Tom Yam Paste, Nam Prik Pao is a lot thicker and sweeter. Tom Yam Paste is also more sour with a lot more herbs in it.
Nam Prik Pao is mainly used to add spice and depth of flavour in Tom Yum soups. I also love to add it to fried rice for a glossy, spicy fried rice! Another quick way of using it is to spread it on bread like a jam, add a fried egg for the most delicious, quick savoury sandwich ever.
What do you need to make Nam Prik Pao
- Dried Chillies: I used dried Asian spur chillies, but any dried chillies that is medium in heat will work. See my post on how to make dried chilli paste for more information on this.
- Dried Shrimps
- Tamarind Paste (asam jawa)
- Fish Sauce
- Palm Sugar: Coconut palm sugar provides a unique molassey, caramel-like sweetness, but you can easily replace with regular sugar. Brown sugar would be preferable to regular white sugar.
- Fermented Shrimp Paste (belachan/terasi)
- Vegetable Oil: Or any neutral tasting oil will work.
How to Toast the Dried Chillies, Onions and Garlic?
I used the dry toasting method to roast the dried chillies, onions and garlic. It’s easy, quick, and consistent! In a dry wok over medium heat, add the dried chillies, and dry toast until the fragrance releases. It should also develop some charry bits on the edges. This only takes some 5 minutes or so. Continuously stir in the wok so it doesn’t burn, but if you’re a little more advanced, you can leave the chillies on the wok to toast and occasionally return to stir for a more even toast.
Alternatively, you can use an oven or airfryer to roast them all at one go! Pop everything in a preheated oven of 200 degrees Celcius, and let it toast for about 20 minutes or so. Time may differ, so keep a close watch. You may also need to flip the ingredients halfway through for an even roast. We want charry bits on the chillies, not burnt whole chilles!
How to Properly Blend into a Paste?
I used a jug blender to blend everything into a paste. A better option would be to use a food processor, or a pestle and mortar, which can get you a good paste without much liquid added. I just love – and prefer – to use a blender though, it’s always out, clean up is easy, and I don’t need much muscle to get to grinding like with a pestle and mortar.
Jug blenders however, is slightly tough to get a smooth paste going without liquid. With a blender to make sambal, for example, I would add water so it blends easier. With Nam Prik Pao you want the least amount of water added, which is why I added plenty of oil to help the blender run smoother.
Gradually add oil to the blender as you pulse until the blender runs smoothly. You can also wipe down the sides of the blender to get all the paste in the middle of the blender.
How to Store Nam Prik Pao?
After cooking Nam Prik Pao, allow to cool. Once cooled, store in glass jars. This can keep at room temperature for one week (make sure paste is submerged underneath the oil), or 4-5 months in the fridge.
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Nam Prik Pao | Thai Roasted Chilli PasteCourse: Recipes
20g dried chillies
2 tbsps dried shrimps
10 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 whole Onion, chopped
2 tbsps tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsps palm sugar
1 tsp belachan or shrimp paste
1/2 cup of oil, with extra on the side
- Prepping and Toasting the Dried Chillies, Garlic and Onions:
- Rinse dried chillies and pat them dry as much as possible. Cut dried chillies to smaller pieces for easier blending later on.
- Dry toast in a pan until it starts to smell roasty, and there are charry bits on the chillies. Remove from pan.
- Add chopped garlic and onions next, and dry toast until fragrant, and starts to get charry. Remove from pan.
- Blending the Nam Prik Pao Paste
- To a blender, add dried shrimps and blend it to a fine powder. Remove from the blender.
- Then add the dried chillies, onions, garlic, tamarind paste, sugar, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and add about 1-2 tbsps of oil to the blender.
- Blend until you get a paste. Add the blitzed dried shrimps and continue to blend until you get a smooth, incorporated paste. If it is not blending smooth, gradually add oil to move the blender.
- Cooking Down the Nam Prik Pao
- To a pan, add the rest of the oil. Add the blended chilli paste and stir fry continously over low heat. Let the chilli paste thicken even more, and turn a darker, deeper colour, and you should be able to see the oil start to float above the chilli paste. This is very similar to “pecah minyak” in Malaysian cooking. Once you have this, your paste is done!