Nam Chim Kai: Thai Sweet Chili Dip
In any Thai dish, there is always an element that cannot go missing: dipping sauce. When Thais eat fried basil with rice, they eat it with Prik Nam Pla. When they eat seafood, they have Nam Chim Seafood. In fact, there are way more dipping sauces in Thai cuisine than you can ever imagine. Each region has its unique dipping sauce, which they can eat with certain kinds of meat and vegetables.
Today, I want to introduce you to one of Thailand’s most famous sauces: Nam Chim Kai. Its sweet, tangy and salty taste is perfect for one of the world’s most popular proteins: chicken. But any Thai sauce, including Nam Chim Kai, is never limited to a particular dish. In other words, you can pair Nam Chim Kai with other menus besides chicken, including meatballs, spring rolls, fish cake, and many more.
What is Nam Chim Kai?
The word “Nam Chim” (น้ำจิ้ม) means sauce in the Thai language, and “Kai” (ไก่) refers to chicken. By combining these two words, we get the name of the sauce that connotates chicken sauce. “Nam Chim Kai” also refers to a product stemming from fresh or fermented red chilies, garlic, and water, which were boiled with other ingredients.
There are many ways you can eat Nam Chim Kai. As classic as it is, you could simply pair the sauce with chicken; whether boiled, fried, or grilled. The soft texture of boiled chicken makes a perfect match with the gentle and sweet taste kind of Nam Chim Kai. Meanwhile, the sweeter, sourer, but also a little spicier version of the sauce is a popular pair of the crispy chunk of fried chicken. Or you could try grilled chicken with a stronger flavored version of the sauce.
(Photo Credit: ครัวข้างทุ่ง)
Moreover, one distinct characteristic of Nam Chim Kai is that it never discriminates! Thai food is known to be spicy (which is relative), but Nam Chim Kai is suitable for any age ranging from young children to the elderly. Its taste is not too strong, neither too sweet nor too salty. The spiciness is very subtle and mostly latent taste once you eat it. Pairing Nam Chim Kai can elevate your plain dish to another level!
Make Your Own Nam Chim Kai
A perfect Nam Chim Kai is not too thickened nor crystallized. Garlic, chili flakes, and all the ingredients should be perfectly blended. The bright natural color and aromatic scent of the sauce is based on its freshly picked ingredients .
To make Nam Chim Kai, only five ingredients are required:
- vinegar 170 grams
- sugar 500 grams
- red chilies (seeds taken out) 3
- garlic 20 grams
- corn syrup 60 grams
First, put vinegar in the pot before bringing it to the stove. Turn to low heat and stir to minimize the vinegar’s acidic smell. Add water and sugar, and stir until it becomes a bit stickier.
Chop the chilies and garlic into small pieces and add them in the pot. Turn to high heat until it boils, then add sugar.
Simmer for 10 minutes, then add corn syrup. Wait until the sauce boils again, then place in a container.
(Photo Credit: Krua.co)
If you are not able to make your own Nam Chim Kai, we bring you some Nam Chim Kai brands that will enhance your simple meal.
1. Mae Pranom (แม่ประนอม)
Authentic in its sweet but slightly hot taste from chili, Mae Pranom is one of the people’s most beloved brands. Pranom sweet chili sauce contains no additives with a balanced spiciness; perfect for those who do not fancy too much chili or prefer a lighter taste. It is a popular pair with chicken and various other dishes, such as spring rolls, skewers, or Thai-style fried patties.
(Photo Credit: Kapook)
2. Pantai (พันท้าย)
If you love the spiciness and crave a heat-like experience in your dish, Pantainorasingh (or Pantai for short) is another Thai sweet chili sauce brand that you should add to your cart right away. Pantai comes in a clear bottle, and you can notice from the inside that the sauce is perfectly blended with chili flakes; giving the altogether hot sensation that can be served with many dishes such as deep-fried fish with Nam Chim Kai.
(Photo Credit: Shopee)
3. Deksomboon (เด็กสมบูรณ์)
As a good complement to both main and side dishes, Deksomboon is a household favorite. The sauce pairs well with various menus, including fried chicken, fried pork, and grilled squid. Many also use it as an ingredient in Deep Fried Grouper with sweet chili sauce.
(Photo Credit: Deksomboon Fan Page)
If you are looking for a complementary condiment that brings a flavorful meal, there is nothing like the simultaneously sweet, savory, tangy, and spicy taste that the Thai Sweet Chili sauce. It’s a perfect substitution for any Thai spicy sauce for non-spicy food eaters. You can certainly try it at any local stalls or restaurants, or you can easily follow the steps to make your own version of the sauce. Come and try it for yourself!
The story of “Nam Chim Kai” is another flavorful facet of Thai culture and heritage. With its blend of sweet, savory, sour, and spicy, Nam Chim Kai reflects Thai cuisine’s signature “harmony of tastes”. The versatility of the sauce also highlights the open nature of Thai cooking, with rooms for innovation and experimentation. Join us in exploring more stories of Thailand and the Thai people, as we take you on a journey to discover Thainess.
Author: Pattanun Arunpreechawat
10 November 2022