For those addicted to fiery flavours, experimenting with a new chili variety or a new hot seasoning is always an exciting adventure. This simple chili paste, completely different from anything I have ever tasted, has proven an extraordinary discovery. Obligatory ingredient of the famous Thai hot and sour shrimp soup (Tom Yum Goong), roasted chili paste (Nham Prik Pao/Nam Prik Pao) is widely available in Asian grocery shops, but it’s so easy and quick to prepare, I strongly discourage you from the shopping trip.
All you need are shallots, garlic, dried chilies, oil and, after about twenty minutes, you obtain a surprisingly complex, aromatic, smoky seasoning that can enrich many – not only Thai – dishes. Even a tiny amount of this paste will transform any boring stir-fried meat, seafood or soup into a fragrant, well-seasoned meal.
I have found this recipe in “Real Thai. The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking” by Nancie Mc Dermott, the book I mentioned last week when I presented you the fantastic Pork Curry without coconut milk. Apparently, this paste is traditionally roasted over charcoals, but the author’s dry-frying method can be made in every kitchen. I have followed the author’s instructions, but using a food processor instead of a mortar and slightly changing the ingredients’ amounts.
Obviously, the dish I prepared shortly after I made this paste was the above-mentioned Hot and Sour Shrimp soup (I will write about it soon) and it was just perfect. Then, the following day I simply added this paste to stir-fried shrimp and obtained once more a delicious result. According to the author, the paste will keep at room temperature for at least a month, so I hope to experiment with it in many more meals.
If you like the idea of making your own oily chili seasoning, you might be interested in the moderately hot and completely different Japanese thick sesame and chili oil condiment called Taberu Rayu:
TIP: Unless you are a crazy hot food addict, make sure you remove all the chili seeds. As you see above, I didn’t and I think me and my husband are the only people I know who can enjoy food seasoned with this explosive paste.
Preparation: about 20 minutes
Ingredients (yields about 125 – 150 ml/ 1/2 cup or a bit more):
6 big garlic cloves, unpeeled and halved lengthwise
8 small shallots, unpeeled and halved lengthwise
15 small dried chilies
250 ml / 1/2 cup oil (I have used peanut oil) (+ a small amount for dry-frying, if necessary)
Warm a pan or a wok, pour a tiny amount of oil (or not, if you have a pan which allows the absence of fat). Dry-fry the chilies at low heat, constantly stirring for about 5 minutes until they become darker but make sure they are not burnt.
Remove the chilies.
Dry-fry the garlic and shallots (you can fry them together or separately depending on the size of your pan or wok) until they have charred black spots, but, once more, do not let them burn completely.
Put the garlic and shallots aside and when they are cool enough to be handled, remove the peel.
Remove the seeds from the chilies (or, if you are very bold, leave them) and the stems.
Put the three ingredients in a food processor and mix until a thick, relatively smooth paste is formed (mine was slightly chunky).
Heat the 250 ml oil in a pan and, constantly stirring, fry the paste for about 5 minutes until it darkens.
The oil will be almost totally absorbed by the paste, so you will end up with a rather small batch.
Put the paste into a jar, wait until it cools down, close well the jar and keep at room temperature for at least one month.