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Shrimp Paste Dip (Thai Food)

Shrimp Paste Dip (Nam Prik Gapi) Recipe - The French have mother sauces, we have mother dips. Nam prik gapi is the basic uncooked nam prik upon which many other nam priks are built. It’s the simplest dip that home cooks turn to when there’s not much else in the pantry, since every ingredient needed is a staple in any Thai household. WARNING: This is not for the faint of heart. There is a reason why you will never find a Thai restaurant that offers nam prik gapi to a Western clientele—shrimp paste is pungent stuff, and this dip is certainly an acquired taste. Having said that, I encourage you to try it if only as a cultural experience, because no other dish can better represent the true essence of a simple Thai home-cooked meal.

Makes: About ½ cup
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Special Tools: Mortar and pestle, or another device for grinding
Do-ahead Tips: Make the dip a day before serving.
Nam prik = A type of dip; Gapi = Fermented shrimp paste
Shrimp Paste Dip Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 10–15 minutes
  • 2–3 cloves Garlic
  • 2–6 Thai chilies, to taste
  • 1½ Tbsp Palm sugar, finely chopped, packed
  • 2 Tbsp Shrimp paste (gapi)
  • 3–4 Tbsp Lime juice
  • ½–1 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 2–3 Tbsp Water
  • ¼ cup Any red and green chili peppers, short julienned, e.g., bell peppers, jalapeƱos, fresnos (optional for extra colour)
  • For serving Jasmine rice
  • Vegetables, fresh, steamed or grilled
  • Mackerel or another fish, pan-fried
  • Thai-style vegetable omelette
  • Boiled eggs

How to make Shrimp Paste Dip

  1. Drain the dried shrimp and roughly chop into small pieces. Transfer them to a heavy-duty mortar and pestle and pound until they are shredded into fine, fluffy bits. Tip: You can skip the soaking and grind the dried shrimp in a coffee/spice grinder.
  2. Add the garlic and Thai chilies to the dried shrimp and pound into a fine paste. Add the palm sugar and pound until the sugar is dissolved. Add the shrimp paste and pound to mix well.
  3. Add 3 Tbsp of the lime juice, ½ Tbsp fish sauce, and 2 Tbsp water; swirl the pestle to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the remaining lime juice, fish sauce, and water. It should lead with salt, follow with sour, and have just a hint of sweetness to balance. Note: The consistency of the dip is a personal preference and can be thick or thin.
  4. Stir in the julienned red and green chilies, if using. Serve with jasmine rice and your “dippers” of choice (see ingredient list for options).

Tip for Success: If you’re ready to “upgrade,” you can start building upon this basic dip by choosing an “add-in.” We often use sour fruits, such as sour green mango or tamarind, but sour green apple or pomelo will work. Also try adding protein, such as cooked fish or shrimp. Simply julienne or small-dice your add-in of choice and stir it in!
HOW TO EAT THIS DIP
This isn’t like hummus or guacamole, so don’t pile it on or eat it by the spoonful! Because it’s very strong, treat it more like a hot sauce—a little goes a long way. Spoon a little over your rice, vegetables, or protein, and once you’re committed, you can try tossing your rice in it, like many Thais like to do. Pan-fried pla too, or short mackerel (see photo), is a classic accompaniment to any shrimp-paste-based dip, but other fish will also pair well. My personal favourite combination is with a Thai-style vegetable omelette.