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When in Thailand, there is a particular table condiment that you will find almost everywhere. Prik nam pla (พริกน้ำปลา), often simply known as ‘Thai sauce’ is an absolute staple in Thai cuisine. It is so versatile and great to use on soooo many things! Fantastic on any kind of seafood. It’s also great to liven up savoury meat dishes; or as an excellent dip for spring rolls or skewers. You can even drizzle it over jasmine rice or noodles.
A hugely important concept in Thai cooking is the balance of these four flavours: salty – sour – sweet – spicy. Prik (พริก) means pepper and nam pla (น้ำปลา) is fish sauce; two of the key ingredients in this sauce. Thai chilis bring the heat and fish sauce brings an umami saltiness. Freshly squeezed lime juice adds sourness; and a bit of sugar adds the sweet. We add in some garlic for aromatics.
What is fish sauce?
Fish sauce is such an important seasoning in Thai cuisine that it could be considered their version of salt or soy sauce. It is made from salt fermented small fish, such as anchovies. It brings a special umami flavour to Southeast Asian dishes. A pleasant briny sweetness accompanies a light ocean/fish flavour. There is no real substitute for it.
When purchasing fish sauce, look for a sauce that is reddish-brown and clear without sediment. A cloudy or dark-coloured fish sauce could speak to lower quality or being beyond its prime. The fish flavour should not be overpowering. If you find that it adds too much ‘fish,’ try another brand. You can store a bottle of fish sauce in your fridge for up to a year.
How to make Thai sauce:
Start by mincing your garlic cloves and thinly slicing your Thai chilis. You can use as many chilis as you would like, but I would recommend somewhere in a range of one to four. They can be quite spicy, and you can always add more of the Thai sauce to your dish for added heat.
In a bowl, mix together fish sauce, freshly squeezed lime juice, and palm sugar. If you don’t have palm sugar, the best substitutes for this recipe would be brown or raw sugar, though you could use white in a pinch. There is no substitute for fish sauce.
Stir the prepared garlic and chili(s) into the sauce. I kept the four flavours fairly balanced in this recipe. However, you can adjust the flavours to your preference by adding more of an ingredient. Want it more sour? Add more lime juice. Sweet – add more sugar. Spicy – add more chili. Salty – add more fish sauce. It’s super customizable!
Totally optional: You can add a bit of chopped, fresh cilantro to the sauce immediately before serving.
How long will Thai sauce keep?
This sauce is delicious to use immediately, and as it sits the chili and garlic flavours will further infuse into the sauce. You can keep this sauce stored covered in the fridge for up to three days.
Prik nam pla was an excellent accompaniment to this pad gra pow dish – a delicious Thai basil beef stir fry served with a Thai-style fried egg.Print
A staple in Thai cuisine, this sauce is the perfect blend of spicy, sour, salty, and sweet. Use it to add bright and delicious flavour to your savoury dishes – anything from spring rolls to seafood.
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1–4 Thai chilis, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp palm sugar *
fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
In a bowl, mix together lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar.
Stir in garlic and chili(s).
Optional: add some chopped cilantro immediately before serving.
* You can substitute the palm sugar in this recipe with brown or raw sugar.
Store covered in the fridge for up to three days.
Keywords: Thai sauce, prik nam pla