Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

Nahm Jim Gai

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Sweet, spicy, sour, and salty all at once, this syrupy dipping sauce is the essential companion to certain dishes, such as Thai fish cakes. Over the years some of my students have helped me as much as I have taught them. Fah Vorarittinapap is one of them. Not only has she provided me a place to cook at her Lemongrass Café Restaurant in Houston, but she also introduced me to her family in Thailand. They taught me that this fundamental condiment is referred to as “grilled chicken sauce,” underscoring the association of this sauce with the grilled chicken of Northeast Thailand. Gai is the transliteration of the Thai word for chicken, it is pronounced as “guy,” the name “Nahm Jim Gai” roughly translates as “chili sauce for chicken.”

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. Roughly chopped long red chilies or other hot red chilies seeds are optional, leave them in if you want it spicy.
  • 1 medium Thai bird chili, red, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Roughly chopped garlic
  • tsp. Kosher salt
  • cups Granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Fish sauce (nahm pla)
  • ¾ cup Distilled (white) vinegar
  • ½ cup Water

Method

  1. In a mortar, pound both chilies, garlic, and salt into a rough paste (if not using a mortar, finely mince chilies and garlic).
  2. Combine chili mixture with sugar, fish sauce, vinegar and water in a 2 qt. (2 L.) saucepan; bring to a boil. Boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until reduced to 1 cup.
  3. Cool to room temperature. Sauce will thicken when cooled. Store in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. For the best flavor, use within the first few weeks (though sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months).

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