November 17, 2009

Nam Prik Pao and Happy Hubby Sauce

However you want to spell it, this is some tasty stuff. A delicious dark paste made from deeply caramelized onions and garlic and chiles, it is seasoned with fish sauce and shrimp paste, tamarind and sugar. Sound Thai? It is. And also, I should say, it is traditionally made with shallots and not onions, but I can't get a reliable source for good shallots, so I use onions with good results.

Anyway, this paste has so many uses. My kids use it instead of that nasty seasoning packet in their ramen noodles. I use it in stir-fry noodles, soups, etc, etc. Just try it and taste it, and you too will find a million and one uses for it. It's that tasty.

My disclaimer- this may not be the most authentic or traditional way to make nam prik pao, I'm not really sure, but I get good results, and I definitely think it's better than store-bought.

Nam Prik Pao
1 very large onion, or use two smaller, or use shallots if you can find them
2 heads of garlic
Dried chiles to taste or a mix of chiles and red pepper
1 cup oil
A few Tablespoons of sugar- you can use coconut or palm sugar as well
1-2 Tablespoons thai-style shrimp paste
few Tablespoons fish sauce
few Tablespoons of tamarind
few Tablespoons of water

Slice the onions very thin and fry them in the oil until dark and crisp and then remove. Then fry the garlic- I've fried them, sliced, chopped, and whole, but smashed and I didn't really detect much of a difference, so it's up to you to decide how you want to process them. Remove from the oil.

Then fry the dried chiles for a bit- depending on how small your chiles are and how many you are using. You don't want them to burn, so be careful. I usually replace quite a bit of the chiles for sweet red peppers that I fry because my family only likes things moderately hot at most. Also, removing the seeds of the chiles will reduce the heat.

Puree the onions, garlic and chiles/peppers in a blender. You may add oil and the tamarind and fish sauce and a bit of water as needed to get lubrication for blending.

In your wok or frying pan, fry the shrimp paste in some of the oil until it begins to release it's aroma. (it doesn't smell all that great, but it really adds a great flavor to the finished product) Then add the blended puree back to the wok, add the sugar and anything else you didn't add and cook until dark and bubbly, the texture loosely thick. The sauce will thicken as it stands. Taste the sauce for seasoning. It should be sweet and spicy- but not overly so, with the sweet tempered with the tang of the tamarind, and dark, caramelized, smokey undertones. Add a bit more sugar, or fish sauce or tamarind to suit your taste.

Happy Hubby Sauce is a sauce I created and it became a hit in our house. I make it from a mixture of nam prik pao, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, water and a bit of chile paste with garlic. My husband loves it so much, I named it Happy Hubby sauce for him- otherwise it didn't have a name and I got tired of hey- can you make me that stuff?...