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Chili-Garlic Sauce for Fish  /  nahm jeem plah pao ubon  Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking, Chapter 6: Basic Recipes, page 190

Chili-Garlic Sauce for Fish / nahm jeem plah pao ubon Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking, Chapter 6: Basic Recipes, page 190

Making this bright, tangy little seasoning sauce for grilled and roasted whole fish reminded me of nahm plah wahn, sweet fish sauce, a classic Thai sauce paired with seafood, particularly grilled and roasted whole freshwater shrimp or salt water shrimp, or lobster. nam plah wahn is a fish sauce-and-palm sugar concoction, in which opposites attract and go out dancing, creating an extraordinary sweet-and-salty accompaniment for rustic grilled seafood, usually served at banquets or at upscale dining establishments. That sauce is quite thick and intense, while this more humble dish takes that combination as a starting point, and then keeps on climbing the flavor tower. Lime juice, chilies, raw garlic and green onion: all these players get together, combining light up the simple, delicious roasted fish, which is stuffed with lemongrass and other herbs, wrapped in banana leaves, and roasted whole over a charcoal fire. Feisty and fabulous.

Just a tiny bit of cooking brings this sauce together. Simmering fish sauce, water, and palm sugar briefly to dissolve the sugar; then it's stir and enjoy.

Just a tiny bit of cooking brings this sauce together. Simmer fish sauce, water, and palm sugar briefly to dissolve the sugar; in go herbs and lime juice and boom! You are done and it’s time to simply enjoy Thailand’s flavor-genius on parade. This is the before-picture, the orginal bowl in which I stirred the few simple ingredients together with wicked-good results.

Don’t wait for a banana leaf and a whole fish, if that’s not on your menu for today. This little sauce tastes wonderful with anything from grilled salmon and fried pork chops to fried rice, baked potatoes, and grits. Yes, grits. It’s Sunday, and since I had just made this and taken the photos, I carried the bowl to the breakfast table and found that our good ol’ Southern-style breakfast, grits with eggs over easy and bacon, all tasted even better with nahm jeem plah pao ubon.

If you love cooking Asian food, treat yourself to a generous stack of individual sauce serving bowls (saucers, actually!), available at many Asian markets. (The glass ones came from a Western cooking   equipment shop.)

If you love cooking Asian food, treat yourself to a generous stack of individual sauce serving bowls (saucers, actually!), available at many Asian markets. (The glass ones came from a Western cooking equipment shop.)

 

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