Thursday, May 3, 2018

Nam Jim: Thai Dipping Sauce | 泰式秘制酸辣蘸汁

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
2 bird's eye chili
5 stalks cilantro, roots included
1/2 tablespoon palm sugar*
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce

*Note: If Thai palm sugar is not available, substitute with Gula melaka, the Malaysian palm sugar, which imparts a smoky sweetness to the Nam Jim. Alternatively, use coconut sugar or brown 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 and stems and crush into a rough paste using a mortar and pestle or a blender. Add palm sugar and pound until dissolved. Add lime juice and fish sauce and adjust to taste. When ready to use, add chopped cilantro leaves.


蒜瓣                  3 瓣
指天椒             2 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、指天椒及芫荽根與莖剁碎,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,繼續磨至完全溶化。
4. 加入青檸汁和魚露拌勻,再作適當調味。最後,加入剁碎了的芫荽葉即成。

*備註: 椰糖味道香濃,亦可以紅糖或砂糖代替。

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