Funky Shrimp Paste Dip

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This recipe, a spicy nahm prik dipping sauce with mackerel and vegetables is one of the most popular foods in Thailand. The pungent chilli/shrimp dipping sauce may take a little getting used to lớn for Western palates. Make sure you have a very good shrimp paste(gkabpi) for this recipe.

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Ingredients

3 small mackerel, approximately 1 1/2 lb. Total 1/4 to 50% tsp. Fine sea salt 2 khổng lồ 3 Tbs. Dried shrimp Small piece of banana leaf or aluminum foil 10 cloves chopped garlic (about 2 generous Tbs.) 12-15 bầu chillies (prik kee noo), cut into thin rounds Juice of 2 limes (about 4 to 5 Tbs.), Assorted vegetables 10 green or long beans 4 khổng lồ 6 cups morning glory 1 medium-size bitter melon 4 to lớn 5 round bầu eggplants 1 to lớn 2 long Asian eggplant 12 small okra 2 tsp. Sea salt 1 beaten egg with a pinch of salt added 1/4 to một nửa cup oil, for pan-frying 1 khổng lồ 2 Tbs. Tapioca starch

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Clean mackerel, rinse well, & drain. Rub evenly with a little salt, & let sit at least twenty minutes at room temperature before frying.

In a small, dry pan, roast dried shrimp over medium heat for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they have browned & become brittle và very fragrant. Cool a few minutes, then pound into a coarse powder with a mortar and wooden pestle. Transfer khổng lồ a small sauce dish.

Wrap shrimp paste in a piece of banana leaf or aluminum foil and roast over the flames of a gas burner, holding the packet with a pair of tongs (or place directly on the heated coil of an electric burner). Turn frequently until leaf is charred & the aroma of shrimp paste is pronounced (5 or more minutes).

Cool a few minutes, then peel back charred leaf or foil.

Pound garlic and half the chillies in the mortar until pasty. Showroom roasted shrimp paste & powdered roasted dried shrimp and pound together to blend. Showroom lime juice, sugar, and remaining chillies, stir well, & adjust flavors to make a sauce that is intensely hot, salty, & sour, with a slight sweetness. (If it is not salty enough, add a little fish sauce (nahm bplah); since most shrimp pastes are already highly salted, it usually is not necessary.) set aside for the flavors to lớn mingle & marry.

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Prepare vegetables. Trim & cut long or green beans into 2-inch segments. Snap morning glory into shorter stem-with-leaf segments. Cut bitter melon in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, và slice crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Score round bầu eggplants deeply into quarters without cutting through. Slice the long eggplant at a sharp angle into 1/4-inch ovals. Leave okra whole.

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Bring 1 50% quarts water lớn a boil in a medium saucepan. Showroom 2 teaspoons sea salt. One vegetable at a time, blanch green or long beans, morning glory, bitter melon, & okra until they are vibrant green và lightly cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon và drain. Leave bầu eggplants raw. Dip oval eggplant pieces in beaten egg one piece at a time, và pan-fry in a small amount of oil in a flat skillet until browned on both sides và softened. Arrange vegetables in separate piles on a serving platter.

Heat oil in a wok or skillet over high heat until it begins to lớn smoke. Swirl to coat wok surface. Pat mackerel dry all over, including the body toàn thân cavity, and dust lightly with tapioca starch. Fry in the hot oil for 3 lớn 5 minutes on each side (depending on kích cỡ of fish), or until they are browned and cooked through. Transfer to lớn a serving plate.

Serve the lightly cooked and raw vegetables và pan-fried fish with the fermented shrimp dipping sauce và plenty of plain, steamed rice.

Serves 6 lớn 8 in a multicourse, family-style meal.

Notes and Pointers

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If there is such a thing as a national dish in a country with such an overwhelming abundance of extraordinary foods, this combination of Thailand"s favorite marine fish, bplah too (a small, short-bodied mackerel) và favorite nahm prik (pungent chilli dipping sauce) would have to be it. Despite its humble, peasant origins, this fish & dip is very popular among both poor & rich, though some of the more class conscious might limit their indulgence lớn the privacy of their home.

The very pungent shrimpy sauce may be an acquired taste to newcomers to the cuisine, but hard-core spicy food lovers who delight in strong, exotic flavors should have no trouble developing a taste for this treasured bầu combination. Of course, the key lớn a first-rate sauce lies in the quality of the shrimp paste which, after all, is the primary ingredient. Don"t settle for just any gkabpi to lớn make this sauce, but tìm kiếm for one with a fine, roasted aroma và not a strong, rotten stench. Among brands I"ve seen in America"s Asian markets, Klong Kohn & Tra Chang are among the best.

Imported, frozen, steamed bplah too in round, woven bamboo trays wrapped in plastic are available from some Southeast Asian markets, usually labeled scomber. The full-grown size of this mackerel native lớn the gulf of xứ sở của những nụ cười thân thiện thái lan is no longer than ten inches. The precooked fish have usually been salted, so you need not salt or dust them with flour before pan-frying, should you find them to use for this recipe. Choose only plump ones with a silvery gray color. Since they"re already cooked, fry only enough khổng lồ brown và warm through. Even in Thailand, bplah too is most often sold precooked, to keep this perishable fish fresh tasting. Since the skin of fresh mackerel is fragile & has the tendency to lớn stick, steaming ahead of time also firms the skin, making it less likely to lớn peel off during frying.