Delicious Nam Prik __? at Mithapheap Market, Oakland
Picked up a $5 container of homemade nam prik __? from the counter of this small Cambodian/Thai market in E. Oakland. The market guy told me it is eaten as a dip for raw vegetables but I ended up using it as a sauce for briefly cooked green beans and corn. Fantastic! It had a wonderful balance of sweet/salty/sour flavors, nice heat, and definitely a good dose of shrimp paste in it (along with tiny eggplants), not dumbed down for nonThais. When I get back there next I'll ask for the name of the sauce.
The market itself can be a bit difficult to navigate if you're not familiar with the ingredients or don't know what you're looking for, but the owner seemed quite friendly and interested in helping. They have quite an array of hard to find ingredients such as maeng da (แมงดา), betelnut, small kaffir lime plants. Here's a writeup about the place:
I went by today to get some pantry ingredients, and picked up a container of this stuff while I was there. After filling my basket with fish sauce, coconut milk, and all the rest, I asked the owner for nam prik and was directed at first to the bottled stuff on the shelves ... your standard Asian- market chili concoction, which I was not interested in. When I asked if they had something fresh and homemade, the owner made a show of looking extremely puzzled and asked (in essence) where I'd heard of such a thing. I told him "online," and only then did he show me the real deal, kept in a cooler near the front. Don't know why we went through that particular charade, but I suppose I wasn't super-clear about what I wanted ... or else reeked of farangitude. In any case, this stuff is indeed the bomb: I ate about a third of it when I got home, using the sliced cabbage and other veggies that accompanied the container of freshly made beef larb I spied at the register and also bought. The larb needed a splash of lime juice to brighten it up, but then I was off to the races. Both the larb & the nam prik were far superior (to my taste, at least) to the counterpart versions I bought a couple of weeks ago at Roong Jing Jing, the Thai market on San Pablo in El Cerrito that sells prepared foodstuffs on Saturdays. (Their nam prik absolutely reeked of shrimp paste, for one thing.) I'll be making the trip to Int'l and 14th again soon, I'm sure, since this first batch of nam prik isn't going to last the weekend...