This Thai nam prik ong recipe makes a spicy pork and tomato dip from Northern Thailand. Served with fresh or steamed vegetables or sticky rice, which you dip into the bowl, nam prik ong is the most approachable of the Thai relishes and dips, not being as pungent or fiery as some.
Our Thai nam prik ong recipe will make you a gently spiced dip of minced pork, tomatoes and dried chillies that originates from Northern Thailand. Once upon a time, when we travelled regularly and wrote on Thailand, this Northern Thai specialty was one of the first dishes we’d order at our favourite restaurants on trips to the old Lanna capital of Chiang Mai.
This Thai nam prik ong is one of our favourite nam priks, which are a family of Thai condiments that embrace everything from dips and relishes to salsas and dipping sauces, served with fresh or steamed vegetables, and perhaps some sticky rice, which you roll between your fingers and dip into the bowl, and maybe some pork crackling.
While some nam priks can be incredibly spicy, funky and pungent, this ground pork and tomato dip is the most approachable of the Thai relishes, and depending on the type of chilli and amount of chillies used, can range from gently spiced to fairly fiery. If you’re after a spicier dip, try this nam prik num recipe.
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Now let me tell you about this Thai nam prik ong recipe for this spicy pork and tomato dip from Northern Thailand.
Thai Nam Prik Ong Recipe for a Spicy Pork and Tomato Dip from Northern Thailand
Like the Khmers, when Thais have traditionally sat down to share a full meal of rice and accompaniments – referred to as ‘samrub’ in Thai, a loanword from the Old Khmer language ‘samrap’, which means ‘set menu’ – the spread typically included a salad or vegetables, perhaps a stir-fry or something deep-fried, a curry, a soup, and a nam prik.
There are essentially two types of relishes in Thailand, nam priks and lons. Nam priks tend to use a lot of shrimp paste and chillies, while lons contain coconut cream incorporated to calm the intense flavours of the often preserved ingredients of the dips.
Balancing a nam prik ong is quite a dance. Too much shrimp paste and the dip has a fishy, fermented and murky taste, too little and you’re missing what is most often the key ingredient of a nam prik. A lot of the flavour is dependent on the strengths of the individual ingredients. For instance, if you’re using cherry tomatoes and not the local Thai tomatoes that are deceptively similar in appearance, the dip may be too sweet.
While the Thai ‘sida’ tomatoes look similar to cherry tomatoes, they are sour by comparison. They are the most popular tomatoes for salads and are in the famous som tam salad. If you are using normal cherry tomatoes in this dish, you can make the dish a little more sour by adding a souring agent such as tamarind water.
In David Thompson’s Thai Food, he recommends either a ‘disc’ of fermented soy beans or shrimp paste for nam prik ong. They are both equally funky in flavour, but most cooks outside Thailand will find shrimp paste more readily available in an Asian supermarket.
Many Thai nam prik ong recipes keep the tomatoes separate until the frying stage. In our experience, the tomatoes are always included as part of the paste when making this Northern Thai pork and tomato dip. However, while I put all the Roma tomatoes in the paste, I do like to keep some slices of the sida tomatoes to put in the wok just before serving to add a little bit of texture.
Tips for Making This Thai Nam Prik Ong Recipe for the Spicy Pork and Tomato Dip from Northern Thailand
Just a couple of tips for making this Thai nam prik ong recipe. Many people get put off by the strong ‘aroma’ and funky taste of shrimp paste. In many ways it’s like people who claim they can’t stand anchovies, but end up loving pasta puttanesca.
There are a lot of strong flavours in this nam prik ong, from the chillis to the garlic and shallots, so while Thai food lovers put even more shrimp paste in the dish than is in this recipe, you could just put 1/2 a teaspoon in the first time you make it if you’re new to shrimp paste. Unless you have an allergy, we don’t recommend skipping it. If you do have a shell fish allergy, try fish sauce instead.
If you’re new to making authentic Thai food and you enjoy this Northern Thai minced pork, chilli and tomato dip, and want to explore Thai cuisine more, one of your first purchases should be a granite mortar and pestle. Get one with at least a two cup capacity. You cannot make this nam prik in a food processor as there’s really not enough paste made to get the blades to work.
Thai Nam Prik Ong Recipe
- 5 dried long red chillis sliced and deseeded
- 3 tbsp shallots chopped finely
- 2 tbsp garlic chopped
- ½ tbsp shrimp paste
- 1 tbsp oil
- 8 sida tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 2 Roma tomatoes sliced into chunks
- 150 g minced pork
- 1-2 tsp fish sauce
- 1-2 tsp palm sugar
- sprigs of coriander
- Rehydrate the chillis by placing them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes.
- Using a mortar and pestle, make the paste by adding the chillis, garlic, shallots and shrimp paste and using the pestle pound to a smooth paste. Add the tomatoes and pound gently to break down the pieces.
- Heat the oil in a wok over low-medium heat. Add the paste and cook out for a couple of minutes until it releases some oil and has become fragrant.
- Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the pork mince and stir-fry for 1 minute or until the mince is cooked through. Add chopped tomato and cook for a further 1 minute.
- Add a little water to the wok and season to taste with fish sauce and palm sugar. Cook for a couple of minutes more to let the relish reduces and thicken.
- Place in a serving bowl, garnish with some corianders sprigs and serve with fresh vegetables and sticky rice.
Do let us know if you make this Thai nam prik ong recipe from Northern Thailland as we’d love to know how it turns out for you, and if you enjoy it, we’d also love a rating, thank you.