Shrimp Paste Chili Dip | Nam Prik Gapi | น้ำพริกกะปิ

This shrimp paste chili dip known as nam prik gapi is the embodiment of bold Thai flavors.  It combines pungent shrimp paste and spicy Thai chilis with lime juice for sourness, fish sauce for saltiness, and palm sugar for sweetness.  All of these flavors are present at high levels, making this dip not one for the faint of heart.  However, once you become accustomed to its potency, it will soon become a dip that you just can’t get enough of! 

Shrimp Paste Chili Dip | Nam Prik Gapi | น้ำพริกกะปิThe star of the show is Thai shrimp paste, known as gapi.  This paste is made from salted, fermented shrimp.  It is fairly thick, should be purplish-brown in color, and has a very characteristic aroma, which I should warn you, can be off-putting at first.  However, when used correctly, this paste brings a wonderful richness and depth of flavor to many Thai dishes, including this dip.

Shrimp Paste Chili Dip | Nam Prik Gapi | น้ำพริกกะปิI make this dip by first roasting the shrimp paste in a banana leaf.  Then it’s a simple matter of combining the roasted shrimp paste with lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, and Thai chilis.  Pea eggplants are frequently added to this dip in Thailand, so when I’m able to find these bitter little eggplants in my area, I’ll pound a few into the dip as well.

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Once the dip is made, it is commonly served with a variety of fresh or boiled vegetables, omelet squares with cha om, and the Thai mackerel known as pla tu.  These accompaniments, along with rice, help to tame the fiery pungency of the dip.  At the same time, each bite with this dip transforms plain vegetables and fish into an explosion of fantastic Thai flavors.

The recipe below is how the boyfriend and I like our nam prik gapi.  It is round, with all of the flavors well balanced, and slightly less potent than some of the mouth-puckering versions we’ve had in Thailand.  If you’ve never had this dip before, I’d encourage you to give it a try!  Hopefully it will become a favorite for you, just as it has for me…

Shrimp Paste Chili Dip | Nam Prik Gapi | น้ำพริกกะปิ

Shrimp Paste Chili Dip | Nam Prik Gapi | น้ำพริกกะปิ

Makes 4 servings

Shrimp Paste Chili Dip | Nam Prik Gapi | น้ำพริกกะปิ

Ingredients

  • 2 red Thai chili peppers
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons shallots
  • 1 Tablespoon Thai shrimp paste (gapi)
  • 1 Tablespoon palm sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons hot water
  • 10-12 pea eggplants

Instructions

  1. Prepare the shrimp paste by roasting it before use. This is best done by spreading it in a thick layer onto the surface of a banana leaf. The banana leaf can then be folded into a package, secured with a toothpick, and roasted over a grill or in the oven. The shrimp paste will be done when the banana leaf is black and charred (approximately 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven). Foil can be used if banana leaves are not available.
  2. Slice the Thai peppers, shallots, and garlic into smaller pieces. Combine them in a mortar and pestle and pound until they are broken down. Add the roasted shrimp paste and continue to pound until a smooth paste is formed.
  3. Next add the palm sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, and hot water, one at a time while you continue to pound and mix together with the shrimp paste in the mortar and pestle. Finally, add a handful of pea eggplants and bruise with the mortar and pestle until they release their juices, but are not totally broken down.
  4. Taste the shrimp paste dip and adjust the seasonings to suit your personal tastes. Serve this dip with fresh and boiled vegetables, omelet with cha om squares, Thai mackerel, and jasmine rice.

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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Jessica April 24, 2014, 4:19 pm

    I love Nam Prik Gapi! My mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid, and my mouth is still watering when I think of the unique taste of this dip. Your article inspired me to give it a try for tonight’s dinner, it has been such a long time!

    Greetings from Belgium!

    Reply

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