If you’re only forays into Thai food center around pad thai, chicken satay, and their famous iced tea, you might not know that their cuisine can be some of the spiciest on the planet. And when a dish isn’t quite hot enough or just needs a little oomph they will often reach for Prik Nam Pla, a fiery condiment that also provides a hefty dose of funk. Drizzle it over grilled meats, use it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, or even add it to steamed rice; Prik Nam Pla is so ubiquitous on tables in Thailand that it’s sometimes just called Thai sauce. Made with only two ingredients, Prik Nam Pla is ready to spice up your life too!
Do you have a refrigerator full of half finished condiments? Are you a condiment hoarder? Guilty. The problem with condiments is that you can never remember when you opened them and often times they’ve already gone bad by the time you remember you had it. Well, have no fear friends. I’ve got you covered. Prik Nam Pla rarely goes bad. It can live in your fridge and you can be assured that it will be ready for you whenever you need it. Top it off with more fish sauce as needed and refresh it with more chiles when you feel it needing a jolt. It’s that simple.
Prik Nam Pla is traditionally made with Thai bird chilis. These little peppers pack a lot of heat, anywhere between 50,000-100,000 Scoville units. That makes them a lot hotter than jalapenos. Use caution when handling them, I use gloves to protect my hands from the oils which can irritate skin. (And eyes, if you should accidentally rub them.)
If Thai bird chilies are difficult for you to source, you can look for any spicy fresh chile: serranos, spicy cayennes, or even something you might be growing in the garden. I store my chiles in the freezer because I can never use it all before it starts to go bad. Just pull out what you need, give them a quick rinse, and you’re good to go. This sauce starts with 1/2 a cup of thai bird chiles which I think is spicy but not overpowering. Do you live for the burn? If so, increase the amount of minced chiles and you will jump to the typical Thai level.
I like to chop the chiles by hand because it’s not a huge quantity and my food processor does a poor job chopping up small amounts. But you can also use a food processor to chop the chilis, if you have one with a smaller bowl. Use the pulse feature because you don’t want to process them so much they turn to mush. Make sure you trim the stems first.
The other ingredient in Prik Pla Nam is fish sauce. Yes fish sauce is pungent. But it is also briny, salty, funky, and even has a touch of sweetness. And because it is a fermented food, it is incredibly shelf stable and allows this condiment to stay fresh as long as you keep the chilis covered in it. I prefer Thai fish sauces over Vietnamese because I find them milder and less stinky. For those of you not familiar with fish sauce, look for a fish sauce containing minimal ingredients, usually just the anchovies and salt. Also the darker it is in the bottle, the more intense it will be in flavor.
Once you’ve poured the fish sauce over the chiles, it’s ready to use but best after a night of steeping. I keep it covered in the fridge and pull it out as desired. Most Thais would keep it sitting out on the table; but unless you’re using Prik Pla Nam regularly at meal time, I wouldn’t.
Uses for Prik Pla Nam
Now that you have this jar of spicy goodness, what are you going to do with it? Use it as a dipping sauce for Air Fryer Tofu or Shumai. Add a dollop to Thai Shrimp Salad to make it extra spicy. Drizzle some on top of a perfectly fried egg. Or just make like they do in Thailand, and regularly put it out on the table for folks that just love everything deliciously spicy. Prik Nam Pla is the perfect combination of salt, spice, and umami. Try it and tell us what you use it for; we love hearing from you! Show off your gorgeous jar of homemade Prik Nam Pla by tagging us @funkyasiankitchen!
- ¼ –½ cup thai bird chiles, washed and stems removed
- 1 cup fish sauce
- Wear gloves and use caution. Place the chiles on a cutting board and trim the stems. Use a sharp knife to mince finely. Use ¼ cup of chiles for light spice and ½ cup for medium heat.
- Place the chopped chiles in a glass container and add the fish sauce. Stir to combine.
- Cover and store prik nam pla in the fridge.
*You can add more chopped chilis to taste. Most Thais would be using 3/4 – 1 cup of chilis…I know 😉
*I use a glass container which doesn’t retain scents. If you use a plastic container, know that it may never be the same.
*This condiment lasts indefinitely. Top it off with more fish sauce or fresh chiles as needed.
Keywords: hot sauce, spicy, chilis, prik nam pla, thai, condiment