Found on each table at every noodle-hawking stall in Thailand is a caddy of condiments, seasonings to add flavour balance based on a diner's personal tastes. Granulated sugar for sweetness, fish sauce (perhaps with chillies and lime) to add saltiness, roasted chilli powder for heat, and to impart sourness is nam som prik dong – chillies pickled in vinegar.
Chilli vinegar is a crucial seasoning for well known Thai one-plate noodle dishes such as pat see ew and rat na (but not pat thai), along with noodle soups, but can also enliven salad dressings, marinades, stir fries, and even mac and cheese.
Prik dong is so simple to make that it hardly calls for a recipe (just vinegar and chillies!). But it's worth writing about for that reason; sometimes we look over the seemingly simple ingredients that elevate our meals from single taste flatness to flavours that are both bold and harmonious.
Typically the chillies used, long red or green Thai chillies, are medium in spiciness. Bird's eye chillies, or prik kee noo (literal translation: mouse shit chilli), aren't commonly used to make nam som prik dong.
Nam Som Prik Dong: Thai Chillies Steeped in Vinegar
Don't fret about the amount of chilli used. After a few days the spiciness settles considerably, meaning this condiment brings a calmer sour heat to the table. This will keep for at least two weeks covered in the fridge.
- Long red and/or green chillies, such as Thai prik chi fa, serrano, or jalapeño
- Distilled white vinegar
- Slice the chillies into approximate ¼ inch (6 millimetre) pieces. Pop them in a sterilised jar and cover with enough vinegar to make the chillies float a little – roughly 2-3 times the volume of vinegar to chillies. Leave for at least 30 minutes, but preferably for at least 24 hours. Prik dong will mellow considerably the longer it rests.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Makes: as much as you want
- Cuisine: Thai