Sripraphai at Home

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The plastic tubs of various spice pastes for sale in the Sripraphai refrigerator are always especially alluring--potions that might allow me to produce Sripraphai-like brilliance in my own kitchen. The other day I went by and grabbed two of them: num-prek-ta-dang, and a tamarind sauce (both $4). The man behind the counter said that I should use them at room temperature, as a condiment for rice, or toss them with meat or seafood in a salad.

The num-prek-ta-dang lists shrimp, chile, onion, garlic, salt and sugar as ingredients. Those first two words are often spelled "nam-prik" and translate as "chile water" so that (I believe) any "nam-prik" is a kind of chile sauce. Ta-dang apparently means "red eye," so we know what we're in for.

The tamarind sauce lists tamarind, shrimp, garlic, sugar and salt as ingredients, and is a bit sweeter, less fiery and more tart than the num-prek. Both sauces are chile-heavy and have a pleasent umami-fishy-funk from the dried shrimp.

I roasted some shrimp and tossed them together with red leaf lettuce, mint, cilantro, red onion, tomato, lime juice and the num-prek sauce. I served the salad with some rice noodles on the side, and we ended up mixing it all together. The num-prek is really very, very delicious, and the salad was tasty, but I think next time I'd just eat the sauce with hot white rice. Its heat and pungency needed something more substantial than shrimp, veggies and rice noodles.

Has anyone cooked with these sauces? My first instinct was to use the num-prek as a base for a fried broad noodle dish, but I thought it better to follow the Sripraphai fellow's directions. I'm saving the tamarind sauce to use with duck.



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