Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Joys of Shopping and Nahm Phrik Gapi

Today was spent trying to acquire some necessary ingredients. Previous outings have resulted in frustrations where seemingly simple ingredients were nowhere to be found. I found most of what I was looking for in the Outer Mission at Manila Oriental Market. Upon walking in, I was greeted with embarrassing Asian covers of Christmas songs more than a week after Christmas. This was the place. I pushed my wonky cart through aisles and as one of the only Caucasian shoppers, people wanted to see what was in my cart.

Shopping for foreign ingredients can be frustrating wherever you may be. The difficulty in finding certain herbs and spices in America has at times kept me from cooking Thai food all together. While it's not tough to find turmeric, galangal, or lemongrass, some ingredients go out of season and are not seen again for months. Chili season ended just recently and I had a hell of a time finding any chilis at all until today. It seems that sweet basil is always pretty easy to find, but I've only ever been able to find holy basil during the summer and fall months. And even then, only if I'm very lucky. Kaffir lime leaves are easy to find, but I don't think I've ever found the fruit. I saw pea eggplant last month at Civic Center farmers market, but not recently and never anywhere else. You get the idea.

All in all my shopping trip today was a decent haul. What is and what isn't available will certainly shape my cooking. I want to get these recipes right before I start to alter them due to personal preference or issues of availability.

I decided to do something quite simple this afternoon. I chose to make nahm phrik gapi.
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I gathered garlic, shrimp paste or gapi, fish sauce, lime, bird's eye chilis, and palm sugar. I pounded them together to make a sort of dip. I used to buy something very much like this outside my apartment in Bangkok. For a look go here.
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Nahm phrik makes a great snack, appetizer, or even helps form the basis for a meal. I love the mix of flavors and hit of the chili that it provides. I ate this dip with raw carrots and blanched broccoli. I also took some of this dip and pounded it with roasted shallots. It filled out the dip nicely and toned down the spice somewhat. Frankly, I needed it as I don't consume the amount of chili that I once did. Something to work on I suppose.

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