Nam prik pao or Thai Chilli Paste

Commercial Thai Chilli Paste
Thai Chilli paste

The base of a good Thai Tom yam soup is a paste called Nam prik pao  or Thai Chilli paste made from roasted garlic, chillies, shallots and as with many Thai base recipes dried shrimp. A commercially made paste is available and perfectly acceptable but I think for the most vibrant authentic taste it is best made fresh ingredients.

Homemade Thai Chilli Paste

 Nam prik pao 

10 large Red Thai Chillies, de-seeded and membranes removed

10 cloves of Garlic, peeled

8 large Banana Shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

200 gr Galangal, peeled and sliced

100 gr Dried Shrimps, soaked overnight in a little water

50 gr Light Brown Sugar

8 Lemongrass, peeled and chopped

6 tablespoons Tamarind Paste

4 tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar

3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

400 ml Water

Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Place the shallots, galangal, garlic and chillies on a tray and drizzle with the oil, place in the oven and roast for forty-five minutes until soft and caramelised. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and place in a food processor. Drain the shrimp and add along with the lemongrass to the roasted shallots and spices. Blitz to make a paste. Place the paste, sugar, water, tamarind paste and vinegar in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to the gentlest

simmer, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning, and reduce the mixture until it becomes smooth and thick. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container or sterilised jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If you really like heat do not remove the seeds or any membranes from the chillies.

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Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is a dark, thick, sweet Chinese condiment used in recipes such as stir-fries, brushed on to meats before roasting, or as a dip. It is made from toasted pureed soy beans with fennel seeds, red chillies ( although Hoisin is not normally spicy and hot ), vinegar, garlic and Chinese Five Spice. Hoisin translates as ‘seafood’ but does not contain any seafood as an ingredient.

Crispy Spring Rolls
Spring Rolls and Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is used in Cantonese food in dishes such as Char sui pork and as a dip for spring rolls and in the world-famous Peking Duck from the capital of China Beijing. In Vietnamese cooking, Hoisin sauce is a common accompaniment at the table alongside Sriracha for bowls of Vietnamese noodle soup or phở.

Wok hei

Cast Iron Wok
A cast iron seasoned Wok

Wok hei, means ‘the breath of the wok,’ it is the smoky flavours, aroma and texture the dish picks up whilst being stir-fried in a hot wok. It is particularly prevalent in Cantonese cooking. To impart wok hei the traditional way, the food is cooked in a seasoned traditional cast iron wok over a very high flame while being stirred and tossed quickly. The heat needs to be extremely high to stop the food being boiling in its own juices and being stewed. When you see professional Chinese chefs cooking over gas stoves or an open flame, they toss the food at an angle allowing for the splattering of fine oil particles to catch the flame into the wok adding more Wok hei.

Sriracha

Thai Sriracha Sauce
Sriracha Hot Sauce

Sriracha is a hot chilli-based condiment from Thailand used predominantly in Thai and Vietnamese cooking and used in soups, sauces and as a dip for seafood and spring rolls. It is made from red chillies, garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar. As its popularity has spread the sauce is now used to flavour mayonnaise served with seafood and burgers, as a glaze for grilled bacon and in cocktails. In America, the sauce is commonly known as Rooster sauce from the logo on the most predominant brand available.

Ghee

Ghee is a south Asian pure butterfat used for frying and flavouring similar to clarified butter. The production of ghee results in the elimination of any milk solids which prevents the ghee from oxidising, consequently ghee has a long shelf life and does not require refrigeration. Ghee is commonly used in Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and Pakistani cooking. In Indian cookery, ghee is used in the preparation of dishes such as biryanis, daals, parathas and curries resulting in a rich flavour and texture and is brushed on roasting Naan breads. The word ghee comes from Sanskrit.
Commercially prepared ghee is made by first melting the butter, as it does the milk solids and buttermilk form a white froth on top. This is removed and the butterfat is then simmered, stirring occasionally, as it is cooked on low heat it turns a dark golden colour. Any remaining residue settles at the bottom and the ghee, which is now clear, aromatic and golden is ready to be filtered. The ghee solidifies as it cools. The texture, colour, and taste of ghee is altered by the length of the cooking process and from the milk which made the butter.
Ghee is an ideal medium for deep fat frying because the smoke point (where it begins to break down) is 250 °C / 482 °F, which is well above typical cooking temperatures for most foods around 200 °C / 392 °F and above that of most vegetable oils. Several other cuisines produce similar products to Ghee. In North Africa, the Berber tribes add spices and age their refined butter. In other parts of Africa purified butterfat is used for frying and in Germany Schnitzels are traditionally fried in Butterschmalz a type of clarified butter.

Chinese Five Spice

Chinese Five Spice is a staple in Chinese kitchens although not used in every recipe, an even blend of the following aromatics; pungent star anisecloves, and cinnamon, fiery Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds. However, like many recipes, it is not definite and other ingredients may be added or substituted such as ginger, nutmeg, turmeric and in south China orange peel. It is often used in ‘ Red ’ cooking or Chinese slow cooking, where meat is braised for many hours in heavily flavoured stocks or sauces

Chinese 5 Spice.jpeg

The sweet, tangy taste of Chinese Five Spice is excellent with fatty meats such as roast pork, duck or goose staples of classic Cantonese cuisine. An extremely versatile flavoured salt can be easily made by dry-roasting table salt with five-spice powder on a low heat in a wok until the spice and salt are well mixed. It makes an excellent spice rub for chicken, duck, pork, particularly Char sui – Cantonese BBQ pork, ribs, and seafood.

Chinese Five Spice Recipe

For best results blend the following whole spices in a spice grinder and store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark cupboard.

10 Star Anise pods

1 heaped tablespoon Fennel Seeds

3 cm piece of Cinnamon Stick

6 Cloves

½ teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns

Optional Ingredients

½ teaspoon of White Peppercorns

½ teaspoon ground Ginger