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.
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.