At any given time, PNA
is almost sure to have at least one type of náam phrík
, or Thai-style “dip,” available for sale. A few such dips include náam phrík kà-pì
(Central Thai-style shrimp paste dip), náam phrík àwng
(Northern Thai-style minced pork and tomato dip), náam phrík nùm
(Northern Thai-style green chile dip), náam phrík plaa yâang
(Central Thai-style grilled fish dip), and the incomparably funky náam phrík plaa ráa sàp
(Northern Thai-style fermented fish dip), outlined below.
náam phrík plaa ráa sàp -- ingredients
This pungent and bracing dip is suitably accompanied by any number of things, including blanched water spinach (phàk bûng tôm
), crisply-fried pork skins (khàep mũu
), crisply-fried fish (plaa kràwp
), boiled quail eggs (khài nók kra-tha tôm
), sliced cucumber (taeng kwaa chín
), and blanched bitter melon (mára tôm
). Pictured with the plated dip below are crisply-fried pork skins (khàep mũu
) and blanched "baby" bitter melons (lûuk mára tôm
náam phrík plaa ráa sàp -- service
Thais attribute a number of medicinal and healthful qualities to bitter melon. It is believed to regulate body temperature, flush toxins from the blood, and even slow the aging process. “Baby” bitter melons are more bitter than their mature counterparts and, for that reason, extra care must be taken in their preparation. For use as an accompaniment to a relish like the one outlined here, I would suggest poking them all over with a knife before cold-blanching in salty water. [Alternately, the melons can be halved before cold-blanching.] This allows for greater absorption of the salt solution, significantly reducing the vegetables' bitterness.
lûuk mára tôm : blanched “baby” bitter melon
I have outlined the item above largely for the purpose of documentation. I do not realistically expect many folks here to follow in my path. If I were asked to rank this item in terms of its "difficulty," or in terms of the "challenge" it might present to the unaccustomed or inexperienced palate, well, it would be very near the top of my scale. Plaa ráa
is, after all, "rotten fish."
2310 W. Leland Ave.
* Both the pork skins and the "baby" bitter melons can be purchased at PNA. But, be advised that while the pork skins are available year round, the baby bitter melons are only available for a short period of time each year.