Nam Prik Pao

34g deseeded dried red chilies (Thai long peppers or arbol chilies) – Make sure you weigh the chilies after they have been stemmed and deseeded. The amount of seeds you add back into the paste when you grind it determines the level of heat. More seeds, more heat.
64g peeled garlic cloves
84g peeled shallots
20g Thai shrimp paste
190g palm sugar, chopped into small pieces
24g dried shrimp
4 tablespoons tamarind paste (see how to prepare tamarind pulp)
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup water
1/2 c. vegetable oil

Cut the garlic cloves and shallots lengthwise into uniformly thin slices. Separate the two. Spread them out on two cookie sheets to dry a little.

Heat up about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vegetable oil (this amount of oil is in addition to the 1/2 cup of oil that will be used later to fry the chili paste) in an 8- to 12-inch fry pan over medium heat. Fry the garlic and shallot slices, separately, until light brown and crisp; set aside.

Do the same with the dried shrimp; set aside.

In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the dried chilies until they have changed their texture from somewhat rubbery to somewhat brittle. Be careful not to burn them.

In a granite mortar or food processor, pound or grind all the garlic, shallots, dried shrimp, and dried chilies into a fine paste; set aside.

Put the paste and the remaining ingredients, including the ½ cup vegetable oil, in a shallow and wide pan set over medium heat. Cook everything, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until everything has dissolved and you get a fried paste that is thinner than commercial Nam Prik Pao.

Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool completely.

Check for consistency. If the paste is still too thin, reduce it some more over medium heat. When you have achieved the desired consistency, store your Nam Prik Pao in a clean glass jar. No need to drain off the oil.

ThecSecond Method:

On a fine grate over a grill (or under the broiler, on low), roast the shallots, garlic, and dried chilies until the shallots and garlic are soft and slightly charred and the chilies brittle. (These things roast at different rates, so it’s better to roast them separately.)

Grind or pound the roasted ingredients into a fine paste using a food processor or a granite mortar; set aside.

Wrap the shrimp paste with a piece of banana leaf or a piece of foil and roast it over an open flame on the stove for 2-3 minutes; set aside.

For the second method, follow these instructions:

In a granite mortar, pound the dried shrimp into flakes (or use a coffee grinder as instructed here); set aside.

Put all the ingredients into a wide and shallow pan and fry over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You know you have reached Nam Prik Pao consistency when you can make a 3-inch hole in the middle of the paste and the hole keeps its shape.

Remove the pan from heat and let the paste cool completely before storing it in a glass jar. No need to drain off the oil.

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