While overt spicy heat is unusual for a northern Thai dish, nam phrik num—a relish revolving around grilled chiles—is an exception to this rule. The fiery condiment shouldn’t have the consistency of a uniform paste—the goal is a tangle of spicy, pale green strands. Traditionally eaten with sticky rice and vegetables, nam phrik num works equally well as a dip for Thai-style sausage or fried chicken.
If you are unable to source phrik num, the traditional Thai chiles, a mix of Anaheim or poblanos and spicy serranos serve as an acceptable substitute.
This recipe is adapted from The Food of Northern Thailand by Austin Bush.
What You Will Need
- 18 oz. (500 g) phrik num chiles, or substitute 350 g poblano chiles and 150 g serrano chiles
- 3 oz. shallots, unpeeled
- 12 medium garlic cloves (2 oz.), unpeeled
- 1 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 tsp. Thai light soy sauce, plus more as needed
- Assorted vegetables, including fresh Thai eggplant and Thai herbs, or steamed pumpkin, cabbage, and long beans, for serving
- Deep-fried pork rinds, for serving
- Steamed Thai sticky rice, for serving
- Preheat a grill to medium or a grill pan to medium-high. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak in hot water while the grill is heating.
- Tightly thread smaller chiles together onto one or two skewers (poblanos do not need to be skewered). Thread the shallots onto one skewer and the garlic onto one or two skewers. Grill the chiles, shallots, and garlic, turning occasionally, until fragrant and soft with a uniformly charred exterior, 7–10 minutes. Remove from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using a few layers of paper towels, rub off the charred exteriors and discard.
- In a large granite mortar and pestle, add the shallots and garlic and pound and grind to a coarse paste. Add the chiles and continue pounding and grinding until just combined (you want tangled strands of chiles, not a fine, uniform paste). Using a spoon, gently mix in the salt and soy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt or soy sauce as needed. Serve with assorted fresh or steamed vegetables, pork rinds, and rice for dipping.