Ready for a hard-core Thai recipe? This is the one for you! This is one of the most basic dishes enjoyed by Thai people all over the country. It's a spicy dip made with the funky, umami, fermented shrimp paste that I absolutely love, and it brings me back home every time I eat it. If you're an adventurous or a curious eater, this recipe is a must try. And it only takes a few minutes to make!
It's Stinky, But Oh So Delicious.
There are no two ways about it; shrimp paste or what we call gapi is stinky. But it's also tasty, or it wouldn't be such a beloved ingredient in so many Asian countries. Shrimp paste's superpower is in its intense umami. Its funky, savory flavour adds an oomph to any dish that no other ingredients can quite replicate. This is why shrimp paste fried rice is one of my all-time favourite Thai dishes. It's also always added to our curry pastes, such as green curry paste recipe.
Is Shrimp Paste an Acquired Taste?
For some, yes, but not necessarily. I grew up with this stuff, so my love for shrimp paste didn't need to be "acquired." But even Adam (our white, British-born, grew up on mashed potatoes and meatloaf, cameraman) tried nam prik gapi and instantly loved it.
For others, it takes a while, and for some, they can never acquire it. My husband, for example, has never gotten behind it. So try it; and if you don't like it, good for you for giving it a shot and no hard feelings!
If you want to try a nam prik but not quite ready for the fermented stuff though, try my recipe for fresh shrimp dip here.
What is nam prik?
Nam prik refers to the hundreds of varieties of spicy dips. Consider it the Thai version of a veggies and dip platter. It's such an integral part of Thai cuisine, and some households never have a meal without some sort of nam prik on the table. The varieties are endless, but the common thread is that they are all spicy. After all, prik means chilies!
Check out detailed recipes in the recipe card below, but here's a bird's eye view of what you'll need to do.
How to Choose the Right Shrimp Paste
Not all shrimp pastes are created equal, and the quality of your shrimp paste can make or break this dish. Fortunately the two brands pictured below, one Thai and the other Malaysian, are available at many Asian stores and are perfectly acceptable. There is also a Chinese one also shown below, but I do not recommend using it for this particular recipe.
If you go to Thailand (when we can travel again...) and you get to visit one of the seafood markets, bring home some "artisanal" shrimp paste! Just make sure it's well sealed in your luggage!
What do you serve shrimp paste dip with?
Anything you would want to eat with a dip, you can try it with nam prik gapi. But here are some classic options:
- Jasmine rice (this is a must). This dip is strong, you don't want to pile it on like it's guac. So the rice is there to mellow it out. See the end of the video for how I make a perfect little bite.
- Mackerel. We use short mackerel that are steamed and pan fried, but any kind of pan fried mackerel will work.
- Steamed or raw vegetables such as cabbage, long beans, cucumber; really anything you'd serve with any other dip.
- Vegetable omelette or plain omelette. Check out my recipe here for how to make a Thai style omelette, and you can replace the pork with any chopped sturdy veggies and then OMIT all seasoning. You don't want any seasoning here because the dip is all the seasoning you need.
- Boiled eggs. Make them medium, hard, or soft, up to you!
- Egg-fried eggplant. This is one of my favorites; simply dip slices of long eggplant in beaten egg, then pan fry until golden and cooked through. That's it!
Frequently Asked Questions About Nam Prik Gapi
Shrimp paste will last till your kids go to college. Kidding! ... well...not really. It's a fermented, highly salted paste, so kept in the fridge I've never seen it go bad even after many years. Keep it well sealed to prevent it from drying out though - and so your fridge won't smell like shrimp paste!
Keep it in the fridge and it'll last a few weeks, but I recommend finishing it within a week because the flavour of fresh lime juice and garlic will start to deteriorate. This is why I only make a small amount each time.
Not for this recipe. The way miso is made is quite similar to how shrimp paste is made, except soybeans are use instead. For recipes where the flavour of shrimp paste is not prominent, and it's added only for the umami such as in curry pastes, then I would say miso is fine. But if the flavour of shrimp paste is the star, then miso will taste nothing like it.
For this recipe? No. There are no ingredients that come close to tasting like shrimp paste, and you really would not be making nam prik gapi if you used anything else. If you can't find it try my recipe for a nam prik goong sod or fresh shrimp dip instead.
Shrimp paste can be made from either krill or tiny shrimp. In simple terms, they are mixed with salt, ground, and left to ferment in an anaerobic condition for at least a few months. Flavours of different shrimp pastes vary depending on the type of shrimp or krill used and the amount of salt added.
Also check out...
Funky Shrimp Paste Dip - Nam Prik Gapi
- 2 tablespoon dried shrimp
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- Thai chilies, to taste (1-2 is probably enough, but some make this super spicy)
- 1 ½ tablespoon finely chopped palm sugar
- 2 tablespoon shrimp paste
- 3-4 tablespoon lime juice
- 1-2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 2-3 tablespoon water
- Extra chopped red and green peppers for colour, optional, but if presentation is important, you'll need it
For serving, any of the following or anything else you'd want to dip:
- Jasmine rice, necessary
- Steamed or raw veggies
- Pan fried mackerel
- Vegetable omelette, see video for a quick demo of how to make it
- Boiled eggs
- Japanese eggplant slices dipped in egg and pan fried
- Note: Seasonings are given as a range because how much you need will depend on the kind of shrimp paste you're using, which can vary in intensity. So start with the lower amount and taste and adjust as needed.
FULL VIDEO TUTORIAL
All my recipes come with step-by-step video tutorials with extra tips not mentioned in the blog post, so make sure you watch the video to ensure success. If you enjoy them, consider subscribing to the YouTube Channel to not miss an episode. Thank you!Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
- Cover dried shrimp in water and microwave for 30 seconds or however long it takes the water to be steaming hot. Let it cool for a few minutes.
- Drain the dried shrimp (you can keep the water and use it as the water called for in the recipe). Add dried shrimp to a mortar and pestle and pound until they're broken into small fluffy bits.
- Add garlic and chilies and pound until the garlic and chilies are fine. (Larger bits of chili skins are fine.)
- Add palm sugar and pound until it's mostly dissolved.
- Add shrimp paste and pound to mix, making sure there are no clumps of shrimp paste left.
- Add lime juice and fish sauce and mix well with a spoon. Add about a tablespoon of water to start then taste; and if you want it to be a bit more mellow, add a little more water. But keep in mind this is supposed to be a strongly-flavoured dip that's used only a little at a time. You can also add more lime juice, sugar or fish sauce as needed.
- Serve with all the accompaniments and enjoy!