“The Asian table is a communal table – accompaniments are an integral part.” So says Martin Boetz, the German chef behind new recipe book, New Thai Food
. And when it comes to Thai cuisine, the most important side for rice-based dishes is undoubtedly nam prik
– chilli and fish sauce. It is ubiquitous; you’ll see it everywhere from Thai restaurants and street-food stalls to family dining tables.
Boetz, who openly admits German chef/Thai grub is not the most usual combination, says he was blown away when he first tasted Thai food – even side dishes such as nam prik: “These little bowls of tasty sauces allow you to add your own touch.”
The fact that nam prik is commonplace means it is often taken for granted – but, just like salt and pepper elsewhere, it is an absolute staple of the Thai dinner table. It is the base of several hot sauces, and there are many variations: for example, nam prik kapi
(which contains shrimp paste), nam prik pla ra
(with fermented fish sauce) and nam prik kha
). These sauces are thought to date back to the 16th century, when chillies were first introduced to Asia. Before that, other spices such as black pepper, long pepper and Sichuan pepper were used to add a kick. Today, nam prik is at the very core of Thai cuisine.
Recipe: Grilled kingfish in green curry Serves 4 For the dish:
100ml coconut oil
2 tbsp green curry paste
2 tbsp grated young coconut
1 tbsp shaved palm sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 large pieces of banana leaf
200g kingfish fillet or other firm white fish fillet
2 kaffir lime (makrut
) leaves, julienned
10 Thai basil leaves
100ml coconut cream
10 pea aubergines
For the nam prik:
6 red or green bird’s eye chillies, sliced
1 red shallot, finely sliced
100ml fish sauce
Juice of ½ lime
1. Heat coconut oil in saucepan; add green curry paste and stir.
2. Add grated coconut, palm sugar and fish sauce. Stir.
3. Wipe banana leaves clean with a damp cloth. Remove middle rib and lay the pieces half-overlapping. Smear the cooked paste over the fish and place on the banana leaf. Sprinkle with lime leaves, five basil leaves, pea aubergines and half the coconut cream. Bring the leaves’ sides together and secure with skewers.
4. Add banana leaf parcel to a medium-high chargrill pan, turning every two minutes.
5. Remove parcel from heat when cooked. Transfer fish to a plate; garnish with leftover basil and coconut cream.
6. To make nam prik, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Serve.
Recipe from New Thai Food by Martin Boetz (Hardie Grant, £20), out now