Nam Prik Ong - Northern Thai Tamato and Meat Dip
This is one of my mother's favourite dishes. I would see her sit down with a small bowl of Nam Prik Ong and a gigantic bowl of assortment of fresh vegetables - slowing picking and dipping her way until everything disappears. Her version is with tofu because she's a vegan. This one is with ground turkey - my meat of choice.
The dish is extremely easy to make once you have all the ingredients. Now that I have a food processor, I cooked the thing within 15 minutes. Nam Prik Ong is quite good by itself - looking like Italian meat sauce but with more spices and heat. Its flavor and texture improve significantly when you pair it with fresh crunchy vegetables - like cucumber, lettuce, green beans, etc.
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks of lemongrass* - discard a few hard outer layers and the leafy end
- 2 inches of galangal root* - peeled
- 5-6 shallots or 1 large onion - peeled
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 pound ground turkey (or any other meat)
- 1 28 ounce can of crushed or chopped tomatoes
- 2 teaspoon dry red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kapi or Thai fermented shrimp paste
- 2 teaspoon fish sauce
- A small bunch of fresh cilantro to garnish
- Finely chop garlic, lemongrass, galangal and shallots or process them in a food processor.
- In a large heavy bottom pot or a deep pan, heat up the oil. Stir in the chopped spices. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds or until fragrant but not burnt. Add ground turkey. Stir occasionally until the meat is cooked.
- Add canned tomatoes. Reduce the heat. Season with red pepper flakes, shrimp paste and fish sauce. Let simmer for a few minutes.
- The real Thai cook will tell you to pound kapi or the shrimp paste with all the spices and fry the paste in oil before adding the meat. Since I'm cooking in a small apartment with no window in the kitchen and I do not wish to disturb my neighbor with the extremely exotic aroma of the shrimp paste (it's pretty vile for people who are not used to it), I add it at the end.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with crunchy fresh vegetables like cucumbers, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, etc.
* I got my lemongrass and galangal from Chinatown. I keep them frozen in the refrigerator - when ready to be use, just run hot water over them to soften.