There’s a happy versatility with this dish as you can substitute the clams with just about any seafood you like including mussels, cockles, scallops or prawns. The chilli jam is a versatile condiment made from deep-fried chillies and garlic. It’s a good staple to keep on hand as it goes with just about anything and will keep in your pantry almost indefinitely.
- 2 garlic cloves
- pinch of salt
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, bruised
- 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 300 g clams, soaked in cold water to disgorge any sand
- 3–4 slices of galangal
- 2 makrut lime leaves, torn
- 2–3 tbsp stock or water
- 1 tsp palm sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp tamarind water (see Note)
- 1 long red or green chilli, halved, seeded and thinly sliced on the diagonal
- handful of Thai basil leaves
- coconut cream and steamed jasmine rice, to serve
Chilli jam (nahm prik pao)
- 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 1 cup red Asian shallots, sliced lengthwise
- ½ cup garlic cloves, sliced lengthways
- 3 tbsp dried prawns, rinsed and dried
- 10 dried long red chillies, deseeded
- 3 slices galangal a nice pinch shrimp paste (gapi), roasted
- 3 tbsp finely grated palm sugar
- 2 tbsp thick tamarind water (see Note)
- 1–2 tbsp fish sauce
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the chilli jam, heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat and deep-fry the shallots just until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a small sieve over a bowl. Repeat the process with the garlic, prawns, chillies and galangal, cooking them all separately. Reserve the oil left in the wok.
Place all the deep-fried ingredients in a food processor with the shrimp paste and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add about 125 ml (½ cup) of the reserved cooking oil and process until smooth. You may need to add a little more oil to help facilitate the blending. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and bring to the boil over low-medium heat. Add the palm sugar, tamarind water and the fish sauce and simmer, stirring regularly, until thick and jam-like. Take care you don’t cook the jam too long however, because it will sieze as the sugar caramelises and will be too firm to use once cooled. The chilli jam should taste sweet, sour and salty, so adjust if necessary.
Place the garlic, salt and lemongrass in a mortar and pestle and pound until a paste forms. Heat the oil in a large wok over high heat. When nearly smoking, add the clams, garlic paste, galangal and half the lime leaves. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the clams just begin to open. Add the stock or water, palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind water and stir until well combined, then stir in 2-4 tablespoons of chilli jam according to taste. Finish with the remainder of the lime leaves, and the chilli and basil. Serve drizzled with a little coconut cream and bowls of steamed rice.
• To make the tamarind water, place ⅓ cup tamarind pulp and 80 ml (⅓ cup) warm water in a bowl and stand for a few minutes to soften. Squeeze and work the pulp with your fingers to dissolve it. Strain through a fine sieve, pushing down to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard the solids.