To make nam phrik nam phak, the villagers of Ban San Thang Luang, in rural Chiang Rai, take freshly picked yu choy greens and dry them in the sun for a day, ferment them for as many as two nights, and boil them for another hour before finally pounding them with spices and toasted chiles in a mortar and pestle. Those of us living in less tropical climes can approximate the sun-drying process by spreading the greens out onto several racks and placing in a dehydrator or a low oven, stirring occasionally, until they reach the proper dryness.
A spice related to Sichuan peppercorn and prickly ash, makhwaen seeds are commonly used in northern Thailand but tricky to find in the U.S. Christian Leue of New York-based spice purveyor La Boite suggests substituting a mixture of sansho peppercorns and orange zest to approximate their bright, piney, floral fragrance and numbing sensation.
This recipe is adapted from Austin Bush's The Food of Northern Thailand.
What You Will Need
- 1 1⁄4 lb. yu choy, trimmed, washed, and dried
- 2 tbsp. steamed Thai sticky rice, plus more for serving
- 6 medium dried Thai or arbol chiles, stems removed
- 6 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1⁄4 tsp. MSG (optional)
- 2 tsp. makhwaen, or substitute 1½ tsp. sansho peppercorns plus ¼ tsp. finely grated orange zest
- 2⁄3 oz. (20 g) Thai garlic or 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tbsp. cilantro leaves, minced
- Deep-fried pork rinds, for serving