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Nam prik pao (aka Thai chilli jam) is a highly versatile, delicious, fiery hot, sweet-sour condiment, commonly used to flavour lighter dishes such as tom yam, tom kha, banana flower salad, stir-fries, and both fried and steamed rice. It’s every Thai cook’s secret weapon – a staple, even – and one you’ll want to have if you are serious about cooking authentic-tasting Thai food.
Nam prik pao is also used as a dip (e.g. for pork rinds) and a spread – although to be honest, I’ve generally been too wimpy to use it as anything other than a flavouring in Thai dishes!
That said, a little of it mixed with vegan sour cream on top of baked potatoes works really well. As does mixing it with some vegan mayo to make a dip for chips (fries) or wedges.
As I said, nam prik pao is very versatile. And it’s the embodiment (if a food can be such a thing!) of the ubiquitous Thai flavour profile of hot, sour, salty, sweet.
When we lived in Thailand, finding vegan nam prik pao wasn’t difficult but here in Central Europe, it’s nigh on impossible. I’ve not even seen the non-vegan stuff. If there is somewhere that sells it, I’ve not found it in Slovenia, Croatia, or Serbia.
So I make it at home.
Along with garlic and shallots, tamarind, palm sugar, and chillies of course, nam prik pao is traditionally made with dried shrimp, fish sauce, and shrimp paste. Naturally, I don’t use the last three ingredients, so I use white miso and my vegan fish sauce instead.
It may not be the most authentic way to make this condiment – not least because I don’t roast my shallots, garlic, and chillis over coals, and I don’t pound everything together in a mortar; nevertheless, my method still delivers an almost-authentic taste, and it doesn’t take ages to make.
Plus, in my opinion, it’s much better than the stuff you can buy in jars. If you can ever find it, that is!
Nam prik, by the way, simply translates as ‘water chilli’ i.e. chilli paste. In Thai cuisine, chilli pastes are legion – I don’t think there’s any one standard nam prik recipe. Nam prik pao means ‘roasted chilli paste’. It is however, very definitely more a jam than a paste.
Whether you use this nam prik pao as a dip, a spread, or an ingredient, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting authentic Thai flavours but with no animal ingredients. I call that a definite win!
Easy Vegan Nam Prik Pao
- fiery hot
- simple and quick to make
A little nam prik pao goes a long way, and adds so much flavour, however you use it. Why not make some today? I’m sure you’ll love it.
Gin hai aroi na kha!