A Versatile Dip: Thai Seafood Dipping Sauce
What would you pick if you were given a choice between a premium seafood dish and a so-so dipping sauce, or an okay dish but delicious dipping sauce? Many might be laughing as the obvious choice should be the former. However, for many Thais, their choices might be a surprise for you as they might choose a dipping sauce over the main dish itself (not to say that Thailand is not abundant with top-grade seafood!).
Whether it’s steamed, grilled, or smoked seafood, Thais love to eat them with an orangish shade with the green, flaky sauce, best known as Nam Chim Seafood. There can never be a complete seafood experience without Nam Chim Seafood. Seafood without dipping sauce? That is just like cornflakes without milk, and a spoon without a fork!
What is Nam Chim Seafood?
Just like how the mignonette sauce is served with oysters in the western cruising, Nam Chim Seafood is a Thai-style dipping sauce. Mainly made of sugar, chili, garlic, fish sauce, and lime juice. The sauce gives a little sour, salty, sweet, and spicy taste. It makes a perfect complement to fish, prawns, mussels, or simply any seafood. Typically, Nam Chim Seafood is a green-colored sauce that comes from its main ingredients (green chilis and some herbs) with the bits of chili and garlic flakes visible on the sauce’s texture. Judging by its looks, you can tell by the number of chili flakes that the sauce is gonna be ‘zab mak mak!’ (so deliciously spicy!)
Moreover, there are many variations of Nam Chim Seafood depending on the type of food you want to pair the sauce. For instance, the seafood sauce with palm sugar recipe goes best with grilled or toasted types of seafood.
(Photo Credit: Thairat)
The Origin of Nam Chim Seafood
When thinking of Thailand, a picture of a clear blue sea and beautiful islands would probably pop into your mind. Located between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, Thailand is rich and abundant with natural resources, especially fisheries and seafood in both the ocean and rivers. This is why many famous Thai menus are of seafood ingredients, and they are fresh and delicious.
Owing to the abundance of seafood, Thais started to create their very personal dipping sauces. It is believed that the sauce first appeared in Chantaburi Province, the eastern seaport of Thailand. Here, people have long been making an exclusive style of dipping sauceknown as “Nam Chim Prik Kluea” which translates to “a dipping sauce with chilies and salt” (dominantly hot and salty!). As the sauce incredibly goes well with seafood, it became popular and was commercialized in many cities across Thailand. Other parts of Thailand such as the central region have adopted “Nam Chim Prik Kluea” and adapted it to cater to their liking which comprises three tastes: sweet, spicy, and sour. This, thus became Nam Chim Seafood that we know today.
(Photo Credit: patricklepetit.jalbum.net)
Different Recipes for Different Occasions
One can exercise creativity when making Nam Chim Seafood. Today, we want to show you various recipes Thai people love, and you can follow these few effortless steps to make your version, starting with the original recipe:
Firstly, prepare the following ingredients:
1. coriander roots 2 roots
2. Thai garlic 10-15 cloves
3. red peppers 10-15 peppers
4. garden chili peppers 10-15 peppers
5. lime juice 6 tablespoons
6. fish sauce 2-4 teaspoons
7. palm sugar or coconut sugar 1 teaspoon
8. salt 1 teaspoon
(Photo Credit: อ่าวตะเกียบซีฟู๊ด)
Please be noted that you can also customize the amount of each ingredient to suit your preference. Once you are settled with the ingredients, here are some simple cooking steps:
1. Add the cloves of garlic, chilies, and coriander roots to a food processor. Let them blend until these ingredients break down.
2. After that, add salt, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar to the blended ingredients and mix all of them.
3. Now your Nam Chim Seafood is ready to be served! Enjoy!
But wait! There are more variations of seafood dipping sauce that you can explore. Here are a few examples of the pairing we want to suggest:
Boiled and Dip
So you have your crab meat, prawns, and mussels or any boiled and cooked. They are looking ready to be served. But wait… what are you gonna eat it with? Try juicing your succulent meat with the seafood sauce with an emphasis on chilies.
(Photo Credit: OpenRice)
Sweet… but still zab!
The palm sugar-based seafood sauce recipe is picture-perfect with grilled and smoked seafood! This recipe is for you if you love more of a dominantly sweet taste hiding in a sour and spiciness. Just add palm sugar when making it!
(Photo Credit: อ่าวตะเกียบซีฟู๊ด)
A Perfect Match with Your Protein (Aside from seafood!)
Looking for a sauce for your chicken protein? If the taste of boiled chicken is just a little bland or too boring for you, add the spice with this seafood sauce and vinegar!
(Photo Credit: เสือหิว channel)
If You Want a More Funky Feel…
Pla ra or Fermented fish is one of the most popular Thai dishes for its funky taste that levels up your foodie experience. Add a fermented fish sauce to your recipe and pair it with your menu!
(Photo Credit: puudeongannyeon)
For salad lovers, try adding a seafood sauce to your salad dish. The tangy taste of the sauce is surprisingly delicious with your veggies. Simply when making the sauce, you can also thicken it with one cup of mayonnaise to make a salad dressing as well.
No time to make the sauce? Don’t worry! We hand-pick famous sauce brands for you.
1. Dek Som Boon
Well-known for its various sauces available in the market, Dek Som Boon’s Seafood Sauce is also a popular choice when it comes to its fresh ingredients of flavorful chilis and garlic. With the not-too-strong taste, Dek Som Boon sauce is also a good choice for kids and those who don’t fancy too much spice.
2. Hoi Nang Rom
With its strong smell of garlic and sour taste, Hoi Nang Rom presents a seafood dipping sauce that has perfect spice. If you are garlic lover, this Hoi Nang Rom Seafood sauce could be your pick!
Pantai Seafood Sauce comes in a clear bottle where you can visibly see the green sauce that is perfectly blended. While most of the typical seafood sauces are often served with bits of chili and garlic flakes, Pantai Seafood sauce is different and distinct in its dominantly sweet taste. If you or your children don’t like the sauce too spicy, try Pantai!
Nam Chim Seafood demonstrates the versatility of Thai cuisine. While classical recipes and dishes are to be appreciated, one can also apply Thai cooking techniques and ingredients to a variety of cooking without losing the essence of Thai gastronomic philosophy: the harmony of flavors. In the case of Nam Chim Seafood, one can see how the harmony of sweet, sour, and spicy can be used to flavor different menus and cater to different preferences. This is reflective of the open-minded attitude of Thai people, who continue to adapt and explore new dimensions in Thai cooking.
Now, when you think about eating or cooking seafood next time, please don’t forget this Thai-style seafood sauce! The recipe is easy-to-follow, quick to cook and simply delicious. And there are many brands available in the market you can choose from! Try it and let us know your favorite combination!
The story of “Nam Chim Seafood” is another delicious facet of Thai culture and heritage. This versatile sauce is a testament to the open-minded attitude of Thai people, who continuously adapt and explore new dimensions of their cuisine without losing its essence. Join us in exploring more stories of Thailand and the Thai people, as we take you on a journey to discover Thainess.
(Photo Credit: อ่าวตะเกียบซีฟู๊ด)
Written by Pattanun Arunpreechawat
Edited by Tayud Mongkolrat
28 November 2022