Nam prik pla (f ish dip)

55 min­utes. Serves 2 to 4

Los Angeles Times - - FOOD & DINING -

CHILE PASTE

3 ta­ble­spoons oil About 1⁄3 cup gar­lic cloves, or to taste, thinly sliced 1⁄2 red onion, or to taste, chopped Hand­ful fresh Thai chiles (red and green), or to taste

Thai chile pow­der, if de­sired Heat a wok over medium heat un­til hot. Add the oil, then the gar­lic and onion, and cook, stir­ring fre­quently, un­til fra­grant and be­gin­ning to brown. Add the chiles and con­tinue to stir-fry un­til the chiles are soft­ened and ev­ery­thing is well­browned, 8 to 10 min­utes. Stir in a ta­ble­spoon of chile pow­der to taste for added heat, if de­sired. Re­move from heat and place in a large mor­tar. Pound with a pes­tle un­til the mix­ture is re­duced to a paste, 10 to 15 min­utes. The paste can also be made us­ing a food pro­ces­sor or blen­der, but the fla­vor is best us­ing a mor­tar and pes­tle. Set the paste aside.

GRILLED FISH

2 whole striped bass, or sim­i­lar fish, cleaned and scaled Thai chile pow­der Fish sauce Lime juice Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat un­til hot. Sea­son the fish with a light sprin­kling each of chile pow­der, fish sauce and lime juice. Wrap the fish in foil and place on the grill (if us­ing a pan, cover the pan with an in­verted roast­ing pan to con­tain the heat. Grill un­til the skin peels away eas­ily and the flesh is firm and opaque, 10 to 15 min­utes, depend­ing on the size of the fish. Re­move from heat, skin the fish and sep­a­rate the meat from the bones, check­ing to make sure any small bones are re­moved. Place the meat in a large mor­tar, and, us­ing the pes­tle, pound the meat un­til it is ground.

BOILED CAB­BAGE

1⁄4 head cab­bage, cut length­wise into thin wedges

Cook cab­bage in a small pot of sim- mer­ing wa­ter un­til soft­ened, about 5 min­utes. Drain and set aside.

NAM PRIK PLA

3 ta­ble­spoon­sChile paste, di­vide­doil

Ground grilled fish

Fish sauce, as de­sired

Lime juice, as de­sired

Sugar, as de­sired

Thin wedges of fresh cab­bage

Boiled cab­bage

Small let­tuce leaves

Whole ser­rano chiles

Cilantro sprigs

Thai basil sprigs

Sliced cu­cum­ber

Thinly sliced red bell pep­per

Lime wedges

1. Heat a wok over medium heat un­til hot. Add the oil, and when it be­gins to shim­mer, add 1⁄3 of the chile paste. Stir-fry the paste un­til fra­grant and the paste be­gins to brown, 2 to 3 min­utes. Add the ground fish and cook, stir­ring fre­quently to marry the fla­vors. Con­tinue to cook for sev­eral more min­utes, tast­ing fre­quently, and fla­vor­ing: fish sauce will help to sea­son the dish as if us­ing salt, lime juice will brighten it and add a hint of sour fla­vor, a lit­tle sugar will sweeten with notes of caramel, and ad­di­tional chile paste will add more heat.

2. Re­move from heat and place the dip in a serv­ing bowl.

3. On a large plate, ar­range condi­ments: wedges of fresh and boiled cab­bage, let­tuce leaves, chiles, cilantro and basil, sliced cu­cum­ber, bell pep­per and lime wedges. Serve along­side the dip.

NOTE: Adapted from a recipe by Tui Sungkamee and Jazz Singsanong of Jit­lada Restau­rant in Hol­ly­wood. The fish can be sub­sti­tuted with chicken, tofu, shrimp and even egg­plant; sim­ply grill the meat or veg­etable, then grind be­fore com­plet­ing the dish. It can also be served with steamed rice.

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