Thursday, May 3, 2018

Thai Nam Jim Seafood Dip | 泰式秘制酸辣汁

Cilantro - also known as coriander - is perhaps the one herb in the entire herb kingdom that has the power to incite reactions of extremity. It has always been met with either love or despise and nothing in between. Folks in Camp Cilantrophobia would resolutely request to "skip the green stuff" (走青) when ordering a bowl of fish ball noodles - their repugnance towards those frilly, pungent green specks bordering on fear of some lethal allergic response. On the contrary, those in Camp Gimme More would shamelessly empty whole tubs of chopped cilantro onto their tacos at the taco joint. Ahem, just saying.

It is really recently that I realize there may be another Camp staking out discretely in the middle between the polar opposites. Let's call it the Camp I-don't-mind-cilantro-if-it's-mixed-with-other-stuff. Every time I have friends over for a Mexican or Moroccan feast, I would apprehensively ask if anyone's adverse to cilantro, keeping fingers tightly crossed for a negative lest someone's walking out hungry. Fortunately, I discovered this somewhat more 'liberal' Camp whose tolerance for cilantro broadens when its flavor blends and sparkles with others.

For the record, I, too, was once upon a time a radical member of Camp Cilantrophobia, but am now a proud convert that does empty whole tubs of fresh chopped cilantro onto my tacos at the taco joint. What Camp are you in?

Whichever Camp you belong to, the following recipe is guaranteed to unite us all. This Thai Nam Jim is a tangy, spicy, versatile dipping sauce that packs a punch in flavor and can liven up anything from seafood to grilled meats and even salads. Melding the fundamental tastes of sweet, sour, salty with a kick of garlic and heat, this dressing is a sure-fire solution to use up any leftover cilantro, from the leaves and stalks all the way down to the roots, with nothing going to waste. In Thailand, this Nam Jim typically pairs with fresh raw shrimps, or Kung Che Nam Pla (กุ้งแช่น้ำปลา), and is equally delicious with steamed fish, calamari, barbecued chicken, and stewed pork. So the next time you ever have too much cilantro hanging around, whip this dip up and rest assured you will be wishing you got more. Welcome to Camp Gimme More!

What you'll need...
3 cloves garlic
3 bird's eye chili
5 stalks cilantro, roots included
1/2 tablespoon palm sugar*
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce

*Note: Gula melaka, the Malaysian palm sugar, imparts a smoky sweetness to the Nam Jim. Alternatively, substitute with coconut sugar, brown sugar, or fine white sugar. 

1. Using a small knife, scrape and clean the cilantro roots to rid of any chewy, stringy bits.

Waste not: make use of the entire stalk, from leaves to roots!
2. De-seed the chilies as desired. Finely chop the garlic, chili, and cilantro roots, stems, and leaves, or use a mortar and pestle or a blender to crush into a rough paste. Add lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar of choice in small amounts until dissolved. Adjust to taste.


蒜瓣                  3 瓣
指天椒             3 隻
芫荽                  5 棵(連根)
椰糖                  15 克*
新鮮青檸汁     2 湯匙
魚露                  2 湯匙

1. 芫荽根部用小刀刮除乾淨,露出內裡雪白幼嫩的部分。 
2. 指天椒可依個人喜好去籽。蒜頭、指天椒和芫荽剁碎,亦建議用研缽和研棒或攪拌機磨成蓉,令酸辣汁更為入味。
3. 加入椰糖、青檸汁和魚露拌勻,在作適當調味。 

*備註: 椰糖味道香濃,亦可以紅糖或砂糖代替。

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