If you're adventurous with your unconventional burger toppings, you'll want to know about prik nam pla. There's a chance you already do, particularly if you're a fan of Thai food -- at many Thai restaurants prik nam pla can be found in a small jar among the other condiments. It's used primarily to punch up the flavor of a completed dish, similar to ketchup and mustard at a burger joint.
So what exactly is prik nam pla? Part of the answer is in the name. "Prik" means chili peppers in the Thai language, and "nam pla" means fish sauce. You may also see the name reversed to nam pla prik.
While fish sauce on a hamburger might raise some eyebrows, it's not unheard of. The pungent staple in cuisines across Southeast Asia -- which, yes, is made from actual fish fermented with sea salt -- is used as a special ingredient at Umami Burger. There, chefs blend a small amount of fish sauce into their ground beef before making their patties. This funky sauce can deepen the umami flavor of a good burger, and it doesn't make it taste fishy. But fish sauce isn't the only ingredient in prik nam pla that gives your burger an extra kick.
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Chilis, Garlic, Shallots Give Prik Nam Pla Extra Flavor
We already know that chili peppers -- the other tentpole ingredient in prik nam pla -- go well on a hamburger. Mouth-watering offerings like jalapeño burgers and hatch chili burgers reflect as much. Now imagine those made with Thai chili peppers, and it's easy for heat lovers to imagine why prik nam pla goes great on a burger.
Other elements of prik nam pla are familiar to burger lovers: garlic and shallots are optional ingredinets but common in prik nam pla. The flavor of cooked garlic -- for example, spread onto ground beef that's just come off the grill -- provides a wonderful nuttiness. The garlic in prik nam pla is normally chopped and added raw, so the flavor will be sharper and more pungent, adding to the kick from the chili peppers. As for the shallots, they're just a close cousin of the onion, albeit with a milder and sweeter flavor, and onions are often a burger's best friend.
With so many pungent ingredients, the last component of prik nam pla -- lime juice -- is essential. Adding a citrusy brightness, it balances out the strong flavors of the fish sauce, garlic, and chili peppers. While lime might not be the first place your mind goes when you think of a hamburger, it's part of guacamole, salsa, and other burger toppings -- and a common ingredient squeezed straight onto tacos, steak, and chicken.
Building Flavor With Prik Nam Pla
By the time you open a jar of prik nam pla, its ingredients have been resting and marinating together, intermingling and infusing, for up to a few days. The result is a sauce with many different flavors coming through at once: salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and of course, umami.
That said, precisely because the flavors of prik nam pla can be quite strong, many cooks like to experiment with different amounts of each ingredient. Some like to increase the measure of lime juice to brighten it, or add a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness. Others might be more sparing with the chilis, or work with a milder breed of chili pepper to bring down the heat.
Whatever the precise amounts of its ingredients, prik nam pla is an incredibly versatile sauce, and can be added to virtually any dish you think needs a bit more zing. Simply spoon a bit over burgers, portobellos, ribs, or even grilled steak -- think of it as a spicy substitute for chimichurri. Prik nam pla can also be used in marinades so try adding a little next time you're marinating chicken or pork. However you pair prik nam pla with a protein, it will add a unique dimension, deepening the flavor and adding a distinctly Southeast Asian flair.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.