Spicy Isan Dipping Sauce

Having not made a traditional Thanksgiving meal I find all the food sites telling me what I can do with “leftovers” to be not very helpful. Which is fine, I was a cooking fool this holiday season and found it exciting to mix things up and not go down the well-worn traditional path for a change.

For Thanksgiving proper I made Indian Food, the Sunday prior I cooked my heritage turkey and made what I called Thai Turkey.  My all time favorite Thai meal is from Isan, the northeast part of Thailand where a lot of people from Laos live, basically it’s their take on roast chicken and is very simple: Roast Chicken (in this case I used Turkey), Sticky Rice and Green Papaya Salad.  When I used to go to Thailand often for work I would eat this meal almost daily.  The salad is supposed to be eaten with the sticky rice with your hands, the whole meal is really meant to be eaten your hands.

Green Papaya Salad served in SE Asia is always, to my experience, very, very, very spicy.  I remember once picking out 16 Thai red chili peppers from my portion of salad alone. Though the best part about this meal, which is already pretty fantastic, is the dipping sauce for the chicken (or what ever poultry you are using – I actually think it would be awesome with Duck).   It’s very intense with considerable heat, but not overwhelming, just enough – it takes you to the edge but not over it and because it is a dipping sauce you can calibrate how much you want to use.

What I most like about this recipe is how authentic it is.  Something that in New York is very hard to find: authentic Thai food.  The only place I have been to that comes close is SriPhraPhai in Woodside, Queens.

Also this recipe has one of my favorite ingredients: roasted rice powder.It’s easy enough to make, but it’s also available in most Asian grocery stores. I have some on hand (it keeps forever) so if I want to make this easy dipping sauce on the fly I can make in less than 5 minutes.

Spicy Isan Dipping Sauce 

If you don’t have store-bought rice powder you will need to take two heaping teaspoons of jasmine rice and over a medium high heat roast them in a cast iron skillet.  You want to shake the pan regularly like you would  when you make popcorn. When the rice has turned golden brown it is done (about 5 minutes).  Let it cool then grind it in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle.  While you are waiting for the rice to cool add 15 dried red chili peppers to your cast iron pan and over medium heat roast them until they become fragrant – about a minute – shaking the pan regularly.  Add the roasted peppers to the coffee grinder or mortar and pestle and work into a powder.  The pepper skins will become mostly powder but the seeds have a life of their own so don’t worry that they don’t break down.

Put the ground pepper and rice powder into a medium size bowl and add: 5 Tablespoons of fish sauce, the juice of 2-3 limes (depending on how small they are – you want about 2 Tablespoons), a finely chopped scallion (the white part and 3/4 of the green part as well) and 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped mint leaves.To bring this back full circle, if you had any turkey left over at this point and you really wanted to perk up some old dry white meat try this dipping sauce!  Or just try this dipping sauce the next time you have some chicken in the fridge you don’t know what to do with.   The other night i fired up some chicken thighs with some left over scallions and made some regular rice for Neil.  Talk about easy and delicious weekday meals!

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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5 Responses to Spicy Isan Dipping Sauce

  1. Carlos Pisco says:

    It sounds great. Where do you usually shop for Thai ingredients in the city?

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