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Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่อง: My Submission for the Thai Recipe Contest Hosted by SheSimmers.com

Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่อง Anyone who has visited this site before must know that I’m a huge fan of SheSimmers.com.  Her recipes are fantastic, her photos are gorgeous, and she has a way of writing that’s entertaining and educational at the same time… What’s not to love?  So when I read that she was hosting a recipe contest for an easy Thai appetizer, I knew I had to enter.

The boyfriend and I considered all of the Thai appetizers that we know… sai oua pork sausage is one of our absolute favorites, but would probably be too hard to make for this contest, fried pork with garlic would go exceptionally well with beer but we’ve already made that, and so on. We finally decided upon a Northern Thai specialty called nam prik ong (น้ำพริกอ่อง).  This is a chili- and tomato- based dip that’s spicy, of course, but also exceptionally fragrant and substantially meaty as well.  And it’s from the boyfriend’s home town of Chiang Mai… Perfect! 

Fortunately nam prik ong is also really easy to make.  You start with some salt and small dried chilis that have been soaked in water and pound them together in a mortar and pestle until you have a somewhat smooth paste.  Then you add the other ingredients — garlic, shallots, lemongrass, yellow bean paste, and tomatoes — and keep pounding into the paste.  (If you don’t have yellow bean sauce, don’t worry, the dip is still wonderful without it.)  After you have a nice paste, you stirfry it with garlic and ground pork and voila your dip is done! 

Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่องIn Chiang Mai, this dip is traditionally served with an assortment of fresh vegetables, crispy fried pork skins, and sometimes even sai oua.  Yes, that’s right, three different forms of pork all in one appetizer…. This alone explains so much about the boyfriend’s taste preferences!

Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่องFor the appetizer contest though, I decided to place smaller bites of nam prik ong onto cool slices of cucumber and then top them with a piece of fried lotus root for a little extra flair.  To make this garnish, just slice peeled lotus root into 1/8″ slices with a mandoline and then cut one slice into quarters.  Keep the pieces in water until you’re ready to fry them, then pat dry, fry over medium to medium-high heat until just golden, and sprinkle with salt once they’re done.  

The fried basil was the boyfriend’s idea.  He plucked some of the baby Thai basil leaves from the very fragile plants I’ve been coaxing to grow on my patio and fried them over low heat until just crispy.  I wasn’t too happy when he came in with a handful of these delicate leaves, but I have to admit they do add a nice touch to the appetizer…  

Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่องSince we had an entire lotus root and had only used one tiny slice for the appetizer garnish, I decided to make a batch of lotus root chips for a “Thai-inspired chips and dip” as well.  Although it’s not traditional by any means, this was also a delicious way to eat nam prik ong.

Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่องThis dip is such a versatile and flavorful dip that you’re really only constrained by your own creativity.  So try it and see for yourself!  Whether you eat it with fresh vegetables and crispy pork skins, as cute little cucumber appetizers, Thai-inspired chips and dip, or however else you can imagine – it’s sure to be absolutely delicious. 

Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่อง

Makes 2 servings

Northern Thai Dip | Nam Prik Ong | น้ำพริกอ่อง


  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5-10 small dried chili peppers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon yellow bean sauce
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
  • 1 chilled cucumber, sliced
  • fried lotus root pieces and fried basil leaves


  1. Rehydrate the small dried chilis in water for 10-20 minutes. Once they are soft, chop each chili into 4-5 pieces to make it easier to grind them later. Rinse the yellow bean sauce with water as well to remove the salinity.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, make the paste. First add salt and the rehydrated chilis and pound until somewhat smooth. Then add the shallots, lemongrass, and half of the garlic and pound again. Next add the rinsed beans and tomatoes and smash until most of the tomatoes are a paste, but a few are still have a recognizable shape.
  3. Heat 1-2 teaspoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Saute the other half of the chopped garlic until almost golden brown, then add the chili/tomato paste you just made. Cook this for 2-3 minutes and then add the ground pork. Cook until the meat is done and do a taste-test. If it needs a little more salt, add a teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
  4. Place a spoonful of this dip (while still warm) on a slice of cool cucumber. Garnish with a quarter of a fried lotus root chip and a fried basil leaf for a little extra flair.

18 comments… add one
  • Josh April 7, 2018, 9:29 am

    Nice, but missing fermented soybeans — thua nao — that most northerners include in the recipe.

  • Joy March 26, 2017, 7:15 pm

    Love to cook and learn more about any recipes. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks

    Joy S

  • Moobusshera December 1, 2013, 2:52 am

    Hey Rachel! I’m so glad to have found your website. It’s a real treat!
    I love Thai food and decided its time I host a Thai themed dinner party. Your blog site is a huge inspiration :)
    I was keen to serve this as an appetizer but we don’t eat pork. Is there a vegetable base that you could suggest I add to the tomato chilli paste? I am doing mince chicken Thai style in phyllo pastry rolls as one appetizer and wanted to serve another light, fresh appetizer. Do you think I could substitute the pork with roasted eggplant?!

    • Rachel December 1, 2013, 3:09 am

      Hi Moobusshera, thanks for the comment and best of luck with your dinner party! Substituting the pork with roasted eggplant is a really interesting idea. I’m not sure how it would turn out… If you do decide to try it, let me know how it goes!

  • K July 14, 2013, 8:32 pm

    Made this and it was extremely delicious! I did alter the recipe. I added 1/2 tsp of shrimp paste.

    • Rachel July 15, 2013, 1:19 am

      Awesome! So glad to hear it! And I agree – shrimp paste makes everything better :)

  • Sha April 18, 2012, 1:13 am

    a special friend loves thai food and he cooks for his family..latest he tried is this one..thats why i stumbled in your blog ;-)

  • Marshall September 26, 2011, 11:17 am

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  • Castlemore Home Values September 20, 2011, 2:46 am

    I must say that this post is a wonderful piece of work! i wanted this recipe….I’m glad to have visited your post!

  • Rachel July 19, 2011, 8:52 pm

    And thanks to everyone who voted… Your support is truly appreciated and I’m so honored to have been a finalist!

  • Rachel July 19, 2011, 8:45 pm

    Thanks, Sonia! Congratulations to you as well… it was a very close contest!

  • Mylilkitchenlab July 19, 2011, 12:42 pm

    Congratulations on winning the contest, Rachel! Your blog is lovely, and the recipe looked wonderful. Best, Sonia

  • Greg July 18, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Original and delicious. Yum!

  • baobabs July 18, 2011, 12:20 am

    what a great idea with those lotus roots! yum!!!

  • Rachel July 14, 2011, 10:22 pm

    Thanks Kasey, glad to hear it!

  • Kasey July 12, 2011, 7:45 pm

    I’m so glad I discovered your blog! I, too, love Thai food, but I’ve never cooked much of it at home (go figure, I live in San Francisco -home of lots of delicious Thai food). You’re inspiring me!

  • Rachel July 11, 2011, 7:34 pm

    Thanks Paul!

  • Paul @cookingmesoftly July 11, 2011, 3:26 am

    …deliciuos recipe and nice images
    ciao from Italy

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