Clams in Spicy Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil : Hoi Lai Pad Nam Prik Pao

Clams in Spicy Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil, Hoi Lai Pad Nam Prik Pao

Sorry for being a disappearing blogger last week. I just came back from Toronto and am trying to catch up. This month and next month I’m hitting a heavy traveling period, but maybe I will have more culinary adventures at restaurants to share with you.

In the meantime, let’s make stir-fried clams with Nam Prik Pao.

Even though I like to eat clams, I hate cleaning them, so I normally didn’t cook them very often until I found these treasures: “previously cooked, wild caught” clams frozen in the frozen section at the Asian market. I don’t get how I could have missed them for this long.

Just to make up for all the time that I never cooked them, I went clams crazy. Spaghetti a la vongole, stir-fried clams with fermented soy beans, clams with white wine sauce, etc. The favorite one at my house is this one: spicy stir-fried clams with Nam Prik Pao.

I already introduced you to Nam Prik Pao before in the pork floss shortbread  and Tom Yum Goong. The ingredients of my homemade Nam Prik Pao are: fried dried red chili, fried shallots, fried garlic, tamarind paste, shrimp paste, palm sugar, and the last ingredient that makes my Nam Prik Pao different than the store-bought one is dried shrimp.  All of the ingredients, regardless of how they were cooked or fried before, are to be mushed with a mortar and stir-fried in vegetable oil.

Thai people use Nam Prik Pao as a condiment in many dishes and also as a sandwich spread, believe it or not. I make my own Nam Prik Pao so I can get the chili heat level just the way I like it, extremely mild…haha, and make sure that no MSG “accidentally” falls into the jar. (The recipe is still on a “procastinatable recipe list” but I will get around to it maybe after I post the sixth recipe using it…)

Clams stir-fried in Nam Prik Pao is surprising popular at my house.  Why am I so surprised?

Because it contains many “stink” factors. Dried shrimp sure don’t smell like flowers, shrimp paste…ahem…errr…really smells like fermented rotten seafood (of which you can drop the word “fermented” and the leftover words are still not that far off from describing the paste smell). Also fried garlic and fried shallots don’t really smell like melted cheese either.

I don’t know if you ever came across this funny news story (funny to us, the Thais) about “Burning Chilli Sparks Terror Fear”, in which a Thai restaurant in Soho caused a terror alert in London because they were just making their own Nam Prik Pao. The police thought they were under chemical attack!

Nam Phrik Pao is probably the most difficult paste to find. If you don’t spot it at your local Asian grocery, I would recommend going online. The Temple of Thai carries about 3 different brands Mae Anong, the brand used by many Thai restaurants,  Pantainorasingh, this is a milder one and Mae Pranom, the old brand, quite spicy. Amazon also carries the Mae Pranom brand, too.

Before you even start, you need to clean the clams. Even the frozen ones need to be soaked in a lot of cold water until they’ve all opened again. Discard all the closed ones. Toss them around in the water to make sure that the excess grains of sand all fall out of the shells. Your teeth don’t need to be sanded down in the process of dining.

Ingredients (for 1)

Clams, still inside the shells but already cleaned, 2 cups (1 lb.)

Nam Prik Pao  1-2 tablespoons

Chopped garlic  2 teaspoons (2 large cloves)

Sliced red jalapeño chili  1-2 pods (I am being brave and didn’t de-seed them.)

Water  2 tablespoons

Fish sauce or soy sauce  1- 2 teaspoons

Oyster sauce 1 teaspoon

Sugar (brown) 1- 2 teaspoons

Oil 1-2 tablespoons

Fresh Thai basil leaves, a handful or approximately 1/2 cup

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil

1) Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat until it’s hot with faint smoke.

2) Add chopped garlic in the hot oil, toss and turn until it releases its fragrance. The garlic should look nearly golden.

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil 7

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil 8

3) Add sliced chili and stir until the chilis are cooked.

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil 9

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil 11
4) Add 1 tablespoon Nam Prik Pao,

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil 12

oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar and use a spatula to break the paste and mix them together until there are no lumps left. Taste it to see if you like the flavor, adjust the taste with more fish sauce, sugar and Nam Prik Pao if necessary. I actually didn’t measure the exact amounts. I just estimate them.

If the sauce gets dry, add more water. This is your final seasoning.

5) Add the clams and increase the heat to the highest.

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil 14

Toss around really quickly. If you are using the fresh clams, close the lid over the wok and shake, or toss until all the clams are cooked. If you are using frozen clams, toss them really fast until they’re all coated with the sauce.

Clams in Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil 15

Discard ALL the “wanna stay closed” clams. We don’t like their privacy policy.

6) Turn off the heat and add the basil leaves. Toss a few times until the basil leaves wilt a little, then put everything in a bowl. You can serve it with a bowl of steamed rice or a slice of toast. I even made a bread bowl for it because the left over sauce usually causes a fight if I don’t have enough bread to mop up the sauce!

Clams in Spicy Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil (3)

But if you like pasta, boil the pasta while you are making the clams, and toss the cooked pasta in once you finish cooking the clams.

This is the one I used the white clams. Different only the appearance but same great taste!

This one is white clams. Different only in appearance–same great taste!

42 Comments on “Clams in Spicy Thai Chili Jam Sauce and Basil : Hoi Lai Pad Nam Prik Pao”

  1. This looks fascinating. I might have to make this for my friends who adore clams. Thank you, thank you.

  2. Gorgeous preparation, and love the suggestions for serving this fragrant dish!

  3. Monki says:

    OMG, my mouth is salivating as I read this! Thanks for sharing, I will definitely have to try this at home!

  4. I followed your recipe and it was [expletitive] delicious!

  5. Sam Han says:

    The bread bowl is such an interesting touch to the dish. It is so pretty and presentatable for parties! And assembling them for potluck is easy too. :D

    • And you save space because with this dish, I always have to make sure that I have enough bread for every one but with the bread bowl, I don’t. :)

      • Sam Han says:

        Miranti, are you celebrating CNY? If so, Happy Lunar New Year :D

      • No, I’m not doing anything specific…Too bad I don’t know how :( My grandparents probably sat there starving and poor compare to all other Chinese grannies who probably talking on iPhone7, driving a Mercedes and having a lot of young mistresses to take care of them…bad kids.

        I am a half Chinese by being a daughter or a half Chinese dad and a half Chinese mom and both of them are third and second generation Chinese mixed blood born in Thailand. We totally lost our Chinese traditions. :(

        Thanks Sam

        I wish you happy, healthy and prosperity!

      • Sam Han says:

        Half and half makes a whole doesn’t it? Lol… Anyway, I failed my math in school. Haha, have a great weekend Miranti. You are enjoying your passion now, forget the iphones and merc. Celebrate life! :D

  6. saucygander says:

    Miranti, I wish I could have this now! I am also going to make your hor mok recipe for a dinner party in a few weeks time, fingers crossed!!

  7. ohlidia says:

    Oh my! That looks incredibly delicious! Wish I had a plate of that right now!

  8. Wow, this looks sooo amazing!! :-) Going to try this! This is a dish I love and order in Thailand, but never attempted to make it myself…Thanks for sharing!

  9. Conor Bofin says:

    Beautiful presentation. When I started reading, I thought you were going to show us some restaurant dish or other. My apologies for lacking faith.

  10. Global Girl says:

    Your recipes make me homesick for Bangkok!

  11. Holy cow that looks AMAZING. Seriously beautiful, and delicious I can imagine!

  12. dfen911 says:

    This dish is stunning!!

  13. OMG I want this for dinner now!!! Love your tutorial. It is so easy to follow. Thank you for sharing this. :)

  14. Jody and Ken says:

    I wish you had a restaurant in Boston so I could try stuff like this to set a benchmark about what a properly cooked version should taste like. That said, I’ll get online and try to find the paste. Thanks. Ken

    • I know it’s difficult to guess without a good example. But after you make them once, you should be able to tell. If you go to a Thai restaurant in Boston, you might be able to ask them for this dish. You can even order in Thai name, how’s that.

  15. mintymilky says:

    Wow, that looks fantastic!

  16. This. Looks. Mouthwatering. o_O You should open your own Thai restaurant!

  17. that’s by far the best looking dish I’ve seen in a month! Sounds like an absolute winning combination of flavours! :D Definitely going to give this one a go really soon.

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