Thai Chili Paste (Namprik Pao)

My favorite go-to chili paste is loaded with flavor. It’s made with garlic, shallots, Thai dried chili peppers, tamarind, shrimp paste and palm sugar. A main staple in Southeast Asian households for generations, this chili paste is used in a variety of ways. It’s added to stir-fry, fried rice, tom yum (spicy, sweet and sour soups), and as a spicy vegetable dip. You can even use it as a spicy spread for sandwiches – try it!

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Ingredients for Thai Chili Paste (left to right: palm sugar, garlic, shallot and dried chili peppers in front)
Ingredients for Thai Chili Paste (left to right: palm sugar, garlic, shallot and dried chili peppers in front)

Thai Chili Paste
Thai Chili Paste

ingredients
4 tablespoon soybean oil (substitute with canola or corn oil)
3 Tbsp. garlic – slice to 1/8 inch thickness
3 Tbsp. shallots – slice to 1/8 inch thickness
¼ cup Thai dried chili peppers
1 Tbsp. Thai shrimp paste
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. palm sugar (substitute with brown or white sugar)
1 tsp. tamarind concentrate

1. soybean oil, garlic and shallots
Heat pan with oil on medium high heat, add garlic and shallots and fry for only a couple minutes or until garlic and shallots are light brown. Turn off heat and remove garlic and shallots from pan. Set aside to cool.

2. Thai chili peppers
On medium high heat, add Thai chilies and fry until color changes to deep dark red, about 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat and remove Thai chilies from pan. Set aside to cool.

3. Grind/Pound: Thai chili peppers, garlic, shallots
Using a mortar and pestle, grind/pound the Thai chilies until powder like. Then add garlic, shallots and grind/pound each in before adding the next. Set aside in a medium bowl.

4. Shrimp paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind concentrate
Mix well the rest of the ingredients (shrimp paste, fish sauce, palm sugar and tamarind concentrate) into bowl with Thai chili peppers, garlic and shallots. The consistency of “chili paste” will resemble tomato paste.

5. Frying chili paste
On low heat, return chili paste to pan and fry for 6-8 minutes. While frying chili paste, slowly fold the chili paste to incorporate the soybean oil into the paste.

6. final step
The end result is sauce resembles a past – very thick, slightly oily and dark red in color. Add more sugar, salt or tamarind to achieve the balanced flavor you want. This chili paste will keep indefinitely in an air-tight glass jar.

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