Nam Prik Pao (น้ำพริกเผา) (Thai Chili Jam)

Nam prik pao is one of those magical condiments that can be (and is) used for just about everything (just check out all the uses listed on SheSimmers). It’s the spicy-salty-sweet-sour secret ingredient that your favorite Thai restaurant has been keeping tucked away in its culinary arsenal for years, but these days it’s starting to turn up in all kinds of exciting new non-traditional recipes and cuisines too (The Shrone has been experimenting with it in Thai-Mexican pork tacos, Anger Burger uses it in grilled cheese and Tom Kha Gai soup, and The Spiced Life adds it to fried rice). Although you can buy pre-made nam prik pao (Butterfly and Mae Ploy are both good; Pantainorosingh brand is also decent, provided you don’t have issues with MSG), it’s not that hard to make on your own. That said, it will require a bit time and effort- just think of it as a labor of love that will pay off in tasty dividends.


  • 1 3/4 oz. dried chilies, rinsed
  • 1 oz. dried shrimp, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup peanut or sunflower oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 1/2 oz. shallots, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon roasted shrimp paste*
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup tamarind water*

*To roast shrimp paste: spoon desired amount of shrimp paste onto a piece of foil, fold foil into a a neat little package or envelope shape, and roast in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Roasting helps to remove excess water from the shrimp paste and improves the flavor of your curry paste. The roasted shrimp paste will look powdery or foamy- simply scrape the roasted paste off of the foil and use.

*To make tamarind water: Put 1 3/4 oz. tamarind pulp and 1/3 cup boiling water in a small bowl. Let soak for 30 minutes or until soft. Use the back of a spoon to break up the pulp, and then pour liquid through a fine strainer over a bowl. Discard the solids. Makes 1/3 cup tamarind water.


1. In a well ventilated kitchen, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the dried chilies and dry-fry 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly smoky. Remove chilies from the pan, and set aside.

2. In the same pan, lightly dry-fry the dried shrimp 2 to 3 minutes or until fragrant and the color changes (shrimp should be a nice, toasty light golden brown). Set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and fry, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden brown (about 5 to 7 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, remove shallots and garlic from the oil. Set aside the skillet, with the oil, for later use.

4. Once the shallots and garlic are cool, transfer to a food processor with the dried chilies, toasted dried shrimp, and roasted shrimp paste, and blend to a slightly coarse paste.

5. Reheat the oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chili paste and cook gently, stirring occasionally, or 5 minutes, or until fragrant and the color has darkened (it should be a deep brick-red color). Mix in the fish sauce and tamarind water, stirring to combine thoroughly. Transfer the paste to a preserving jar and cool (let cool first if you are using plastic refrigerator/freezer jars). Finished nam prik pao paste will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.