Nam phrik is a generic term that may refer to any of the types of more or less viscous, spicy, chili
-based, hot sauces typical of Thai cuisine. Usual ingredients for nam phrik are fresh or dry chilies, garlic
juice and often some kind of fish or shrimp paste
. In the traditional way of preparing the sauce, the ingredients are pounded together using a mortar and pestle
, with either salt or fish sauce
added to taste.
Nam phrik is normally served on small saucers placed by the main dish as a condiment or dip for bland preparations, such as raw or boiled greens, fish, poultry and meats. Depending on the type, the region and the family that prepares it, nam phrik may vary in texture from a liquid to a paste to an almost dry, granulous or powdery consistency.
Instead of khrueang kaeng or phrik kaeng, the words nam phrik can also be used to denote Thai curry pastes such as in nam phrik kaeng som for kaeng som or nam phrik kaeng phet for kaeng phet.
Types of nam phrik vary according to the ingredients, the preparation and the region. Some may include tamarind, green mango, galangal, lemongrass and/or mushrooms and even ingredients such as frog. If fish paste is used, it may be made in a variety of ways, by mincing dried, boiled, grilled or salted fish, or by using fish roe. In Isan, pla ra, giving an intense flavor, is often used. Some types of nam phrik may be sweetened with sugar. A Thai cooking book from 1974 CE lists over 100 different recipes. Among the most widespread varieties, the following deserve mention:
1. Nam phrik kapi is one of the most widespread varieties and is typical of central Thailand. It is often eaten with fried pla thu and vegetables, among other dishes.
2. Nam phrik kha is made with roasted chilies, garlic, galangal
and salt. This northern Thai specialty is often served as a dip for steamed mushrooms
3. Nam phrik long ruea is an elaborate fried nam phrik using several kinds of fruits such as Garcinia schomburgkiana and Solanum ferox, dried shrimp, sweet pork, and shrimp paste in addition to chilies, garlic and sugar
. It is eaten with salted duck egg, fresh greens, and, for instance, sliced Zedoary ("white turmeric").
4. Nam phrik maeng da incorporates roasted and pounded maeng da (Lethocerus indicus, a kind of Giant water bug) for its specific taste.
5. Nam phrik narok literally translates to "chili paste from hell". It is made with dried chilies, shrimp paste, catfish, shallots, garlic, fish sauce and sugar.
6. Nam phrik num, a thick northern specialty based on roasted green chilies, onion and garlic, is usually eaten along with vegetables, pork cracklings and sticky rice.
7. Nam phrik ong is a traditional specialty of northern Thailand made with minced pork
8. Nam phrik phao is sweetened with sugar with, among other ingredients, roasted chilies and tamarind. It is popular as a spread on bread or toast. It can also be used as an ingredient, for instance in tom yum or in the Thai salad with squid called phla pla muek.
9. Nam phrik pla ching chang is based on small, local anchovies
(Stolephorus) popular in Phuket.
10 Nam phrik pla ra is made with pla ra as one of the main ingredients. Like most types of nam phrik, a little water is used if the mixture becomes too thick.
11. Nam phrik pla salat pon, also known as phrik pla salat pon, is a variety of nam phrik with powdered, roasted, dry pla salat (Notopterus notopterus). All main ingredients (the dry fish, red dry chili and garlic) are previously roasted until crunchy. Shrimp paste and sugar are also added, and the mixture is pounded with a mortar and pestle. It is eaten with raw vegetables, and is popular in Khorat.
12. Nam phrik pla yang is mainly minced, grilled fish, usually pla chon, mixed with onion, garlic, powdered chili, tamarind, shrimp paste, fish sauce and sugar.
13. Nam phrik tai pla, one of its main ingredients is tai pla, a sauce used in the Southern Thai cuisine made with the fermented innards of the short-bodied mackerel.