Jiaow Bong (Thai: Nam Phrik Pao)

  • 75g (2 1/2 oz) whole dried chilli, substitute about  7 tbsp chillie powder
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) garlic, about 2 medium heads
  • 150g (5 1/2 oz) shallots, about 5 medium shallots
  • 1 cup, 250ml oil
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) palm sugar, about 10 tbsp, pounded slightly to break the lumps
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) Thai shrimp paste
  • 85 ml (1/3 cup) tamarind pulp*
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) fish sauce
  • 65 ml (1/4 cup) water

Preparation of ingredients;

  • Roast the chillies.
The dry chillies are placed in a dry wok and medium heat applied. Keep stirring the chillie pods while they smoke a little. This smoke can be very acrid and irritating so it's best to have an extractor fan working and or the outside kitchen door open. Remove from the heat and allow cooling.

  • Peel the garlic and shallots.
Slice the garlic into thin slices and keep separate. Similarly slice the shallots separately.
Heat the oil in a wok and cook the garlic slices until golden in colour. Remove the garlic from the hot oil with a sieve or any other appropriate tool.
Cook the shallots similarly keeping the slices moving so that they don't stick and burn. When cooked fish out the cooked shallots and place aside.

  • Deseed the chillies.
The hot part of the chillie berry is the placenta which the seeds attach to. For jiao bong the heat of the chillie is not what we are after so we need to remove the seeds and the membrane.
Cut off the stems with a knife and with a slice cut down the length of one side of the berry. Remove the seeds and the membranes and discard. Do this for the rest of the batch. Grind or homogenise the chillie pods in either a food processor or with a pestle and mortar until finely powdered. With that done put this aside.

  • Pulverise the garlic and shallots.
This can be done most easily with a food processor. Once again it will work with a bit of effort using a pestle and mortar. Transfer this into a holding bowl.

  • *Tamarind Pulp preparation.
Useable tamarind pulp is available commercially in jars and as semi dried blocks. The jars are much easier to deal with as it simply needs to be spooned out. If the block tamarind is your option then we need to clean the tamarind paste and make it useable.
The semi-dried tamarind block contains the seeds and the strings of the tamarind pods.
Transfer the semi-dried block into a bowl and add 4 cups of really hot water. The rest of the processing is done by hand so you need to allow the temperature to drop to a comfortable level. You need really clean hands for this step as it's hands in only.
Work the paste into the water and you will feel the sees and the fibre throughout. When completely mixed go and wash your hands again and pour the contents into a sieve. The mixture is very thick and will need pressing to pass most of the content, pulp, through the strainer. When it's all through scrape the underside of the sieve and retain the collected saucy pulp. Discard the seed and fibre inside the strainer. The consistency is about that of ketchup.

Cooking the "jiaow bong"
  1.  Set the wok with the remaining oil back over medium high heat until hot. orm the shrimp paste into a ball and flatten it slightly. Fry the shrimp paste in the hot oil for one or two minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add five tablespoons of chilli powder and mix well.
  3. Add the ground garlic and shallots, tamarind pulp, fish sauce and pounded palm sugar, mix well.
  4. Add the water, and stir well. Taste the mixture and adjust by adding more sugar, tamarind, or chillie as needed.
  5. The flavour should be sour, sweet, salty, and with a bbq element and spicy hit.
  6. Turn the heat down to simmer and let the mixture simmer until reduce a little bit, to the texture of a runny honey. It will become viscous as it cools.
Transfer the Nam Prik Pao into a jar and it has a shelf life of a few months.

Jiaow Bong(Nam Phrik Pao) can be used as the chillie paste for Tom Yum Goong as a dip for sun-dried meats and for Lao sausage.

Another delicious use is with a Lao delicacy, "kaipan/khai paen" or "the skin of the stone". The local people of Luang Phrabang harvest the filamentous green algae in the winter from the Nam Ou river attached to the river bed stones. This then is laid out in sheets with a little garlic, tomato and sesame seeds and sun-dried into flat sheets. The sheets are sold in Luang Phrabang at the markets, to restaurants and to travellers. (Who are rarely seen buying it in this form). The sheets are cut into approx 5 cm squares, quickly fried in a little oil removed and topped with a thin spread of "jiaow bong" with or without thin slivers of cooked buffalo skin added! This is a favourite snack.

Kaipan spread with jiow bong with buffalo skin strips