‘Nam Jim‘ is Thai for dipping sauce, of which there are many, many versions. There are several types of dipping sauces prepared in Thailand, to go with grilled meat, seafood, chicken, vegetables, hot pot and satay. Though most of these sauces are a mix of hot and sweet, salty and sour, there are variations in the ingredients and techniques used. Today, I am going to share with you all my recipe for a Thai-style dipping sauce – a sweet red chilli sauce.
This Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce is inspired by memories of our holidays in Thailand, what I have learnt of the cuisine by observing and doing. It might not be the most authentic Nam Jim recipe, but I can assure you that it tastes absolutely delicious. This is a sweetish, moderately spicy and sour sauce that goes beautifully with most fried snacks, including samosas, spring rolls, cigars, cheese poppers and pakoras. Try it out, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
A note on the ingredients used
Several Thai dipping sauces contain shrimp paste and/or oyster or fish sauce. However, this Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce is completely vegetarian, made using ingredients commonly available here in Bangalore. It is a vegan (plant-based) and gluten-free sauce, too.
I have used moderately spicy red Fresno chillies to make this sauce, along with tomato to give it more body and flavour. Some ginger and garlic go in, too. Sugar has been used to sweeten the sauce, and a mix of tamarind extract and white vinegar to sour it. There is no corn flour or other thickening agent used.
This Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce is not fermented, as many sauces are. It is an instant sauce, one that can be used immediately after preparation, though I believe the flavours intensify after a day or so of the making.
Other sauce and dip recipes on my blog
You might want to take a look at the other recipes for sauces and dips on my blog:
- Pineapple Hot Sauce With Habanero Chillies
- Home-Made Red Chilli Sauce| How To Make Hot Sauce At Home
- Home-Made Tomato Ketchup
- Ripe Mango Dip| Mango Chilli Sauce
- Doon Chetin| Kashmiri Walnut Chutney
- Basil And Pumpkin Seed Pesto
- Peanut Basil Pesto
- Hari Chutney| Green Chutney For Chaat And Sandwiches
- Meethi Chutney| Imli Chutney
- Gujarati Kadhi Chutney| Fafda Chutney
Nam Jim or Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce recipe
Here’s how to go about it.
Ingredients (makes about 1-1/2 cups):
1. A small piece of tamarind
2. 250 grams of red Fresno chillies
3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
4. 6-8 cloves of garlic
5. 1 medium-sized tomato
6. 1 teaspoon oil
7. Salt to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon
8. 1 cup sugar or to taste
9. 1/8 cup white vinegar or to taste
1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water, so as to soften it. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.
2. In the meantime, remove the tops from the Fresno chillies and chop them roughly, including the seeds. Chop the tomato roughly. Peel the ginger and garlic, and chop them up too.
3. When the tamarind has cooled down, squeeze out all the juice from it. Use water as needed to help with the extraction. I had a little less than 1/2 cup of extract.
4. Now, we will start making the Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the chopped ginger and garlic. Saute for about a minute.
5. Add in the chopped tomato at this stage. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute till the tomatoes turn mushy, 3-4 minutes.
6. Now add in the chopped Fresno chillies and a little salt. Cook on medium flame for 5-6 minutes or till the chillies are almost done.
7. Add the tamarind extract to the pan. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind is gone and the chillies are cooked. Considering that the skin of Fresno chillies is quite thick, they might not turn completely soft – just make sure they are not raw. Turn the flame down to low at this stage.
8. Add in the sugar and salt to taste. Mix well. Let the sugar get completely dissolved, which should take about 2 minutes. Switch off gas.
9. Mix in the white vinegar.
10. Allow the mixture to cool down completely, then transfer it to a mixer jar. Grind to a smooth puree. Let it settle for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle. Keep the Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce refrigerated and use as needed with a clean, dry spoon.
Related event: Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge
This recipe is brought to you in association with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, a group of passionate food bloggers that I am part of.
For the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, we participants post every month, based on a pre-determined theme. The participants are paired together, and every pair exchanges two ingredients secretly without the knowledge of the rest of the group. These secret ingredients are used by each participant to create a dish that fits into the theme of the month. A picture of each dish is then shared in the group, and the members try to guess the two secret ingredients that went into it.
The theme for September 2022 was ‘Chutneys and Condiments’, suggested by Preethi of Cakes & Curries. You guys have to check out the gorgeous Onion Jam she has prepared for the theme!
I was paired with Renu, the author of Cook With Renu, for the month. I suggested that Renu make a condiment using ginger and salt, and she came up with a unique recipe for Pickled Nasturtium Seeds – head to her blog to read the detailed proceedure! She assigned to me the secret ingredients of ‘tamarind’ and ‘garlic’, and I used them to make this Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce.
Tips & Tricks
1. You can use any variety of red chillies you prefer – adjust the quantity depending upon how hot they are. If they are too hot, you might want to remove the seeds before using them in the sauce. Adjust the quantities of other ingredients according to the spice level of the red chillies.
2. I prefer using red Fresno chillies (commonly available at Namdhari’s) as they are moderately hot and perfectly suited to our tastebuds. I do not remove the seeds. I do not need to wear gloves, but you might want to.
3. The tomato balances out the heat of the chillies and gives some body to the sauce. I use Nati (country) tomatoes for this purpose. Do not use too many tomatoes, which will make the sauce taste like tomato ketchup.
4. Adjust the quantity of tamarind as per personal taste preferences. Using white vinegar in addition to the tamarind gives the sauce just the right amount of acidity, fragrance and flavour. This also helps to retain the beautiful red colour of the chillies – using too much tamarind might darken the sauce.
5. Regular granulated sugar goes best in this Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce, but you may use jaggery or coconut sugar instead. Adjust as per taste.
6. I prefer grinding the sauce smooth, but you can keep it chunky if you so prefer.
7. You may add some onion and/or lemongrass to give more flavour to the sauce. I typically don’t.
8. When bottled and refrigerated, this Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce stays for up to a month. However, since it is made without any preservatives, it is better used sooner rather than later.
9. You may pass the sauce through a strainer before bottling it, but I prefer not to.
10. You can grind the chillies, ginger, garlic and tomato first and then cook the mixture to a sauce. However, I prefer doing it the way I have outlined above.
11. This sauce turns out quite thick, and does not need any thickening agent like cornflour. If you want to use it as a dipping sauce, take a small quantity in a bowl and dilute it with water as needed.
12. The flavours of this sauce intensify about a day after it is made. So, it is best prepared at least 24 hours before it is supposed to be used.
13. Be very careful while salting the sauce. Ideally, this sauce is supposed to be sweet and moderately spicy, with just a little salt to balance it out. About 1/2 teaspoon of salt in total should be good.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!