Oh. My god. I just discovered the Thai-style dipping sauce, nam chim, when made with habaneros and a ton of cilantro, is an outrageously good sauce that I could imagine eating on basically any kind of meat or vegetables. It’s a gloriously green, intoxicatingly scented, and richly flavoured fresh sauce with a lot of tang.
I modified a version by Pailin Chongchitnant of hot-thai-kitchen.com (whose YouTube channel is fantastic) based on what I had on hand:
In a blender (I use a hand blender), combine until ultra-finely chopped:
- 2 cloves garlic (more, if you are a garlic lover)
- 1 habanero pepper, seeds removed
- 1 – 1½ cup cilantro, including stems
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar (which is softer and richer tasting than palm sugar)
- 3 tbsp lime juice (I was low on limes so used: 1 tbsp lime + 2 tbsp rice vinegar)
I served one third of the batch each to myself and Fronx, in little bowls accompanied by spoons, and put the other third in the fridge. We scooped up the sauce onto the chicken and tomatoes I served. Next time, I would serve this with sticky rice, but for that I would have had to plan ahead.
Notes on the cilantro
- Always clean cilantro by plunging it in water and swishing it around, then replacing the water and doing it again a few times. If you don’t, you are pretty much guaranteed to have sand in your food. I usually dry it in a salad spinner, or pat it down with paper towels, though this time I wringed it out like a towel, since I didn’t need to worry about bruising the tender leaves.
- Use the stems! Always use the stems! They are crunchy, juicy, and full of all that cilantro flavour.
- Do not go easy on the cilantro here. If anything, go heavy. If you are worried this will be too spicy or strongly flavoured, use more cilantro.
Notes on coconut sugar
- I never would have learned about coconut sugar if my friend and colleague Duana had not brought me back some from Singapore. Thank you, Duana!
- Coconut sugar is what you wish palm sugar was.
- Try not to eat the coconut sugar as if it were candy.
- Maybe have one little bite. I mean, it’s kinda like maple sugar candy. But better.
Notes on habanero
- Did you know that habanero is not spelled with a tilde? Spelling it “habañero” is an instance of hyperforeignism.
- Did you hear that I bought Fronx a plant with a couple dozen peppers on it?
2 thoughts on “Cilantro-habanero nam chim”
ps: for vegetarians, I would trust Cook’s Illustrated, if you are looking for a vegetarian fish sauce substitute. This recipe (with only dried shiitake, water, salt, and soy sauce) lasts for up to three weeks: https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/6610-making-a-vegetarian-substitute-for-fish-sauce
I was debating whether to take sausage or chicken out of the freezer. Chicken it is! I’ll have to settle for palm sugar though.