Nam Jim Jaew is a hot, sour and slightly sweet Thai dipping sauce that’s found on practically every street corner in Thailand. It is especially good when accompanying grilled food.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
What is Nam Jim Jaew?
Nam Jim is the name given to any number of dipping sauces in Thailand. The one we’re doing today is known as Nam Jim Jaew, hailing from north eastern Thailand, the Isan region. It shares that signature sour and salty flavour characteristic of many Thai nam jim and salads, with an added smoky, toasty note.
The key difference in today’s Thai dipping sauce is the use of dried chilli flakes (prik bon in Thai), instead of fresh chillies. While there’s probably not a single “authentic” nam jim jaew recipe (as each family will have its own slant on it), they will all use chilli flakes for this dipping sauce.
It makes use of everyday ingredients, for the most part. The only thing you might do a Roger Moore at (ya know, raised eyebrow?) is the toasted rice powder. But don’t fret, that’s easily done at home. Let’s take a look at what we need to make Nam Jim Jaew:
We are using a couple of shallots in the recipe, and they are chopped up roughly, so their presence is very obvious. You can use a regular small onion, if you like, white or red is fine.
Red Chilli Flakes
I’ve given you an amount that will produce a little heat, but not too much. Nam jim jaew isn’t meant to be a super hot dip, but if you want it to be so, feel free to up the flakes or use spicy chilli flakes.
Traditionally, the red chilli flakes would be homemade. Chillies would be toasted over open flames, then pounded into flakes. But the modern cook will just use shop bought chilli flakes for nam jim jaew.
What herb you use is a matter of preference. The choice is usually between fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) and spring onions (scallions). Both lend a subtle aroma and flavour to this Thai dipping sauce.
I prefer to use coriander leaves, as spring onions are pretty similar to shallots, aren’t they? I’ve even had nam jim jaew with mint leaves on a couple of occasions in Thailand.
Any regular fish sauce will do, Thai or Vietnamese. You should be able to find it in any East or South East Asian store and most certainly online. I have both versions and use them interchangeably.
Click here to get it on Amazon (affiliate link).
Any limes will work for this, apart from kaffir lime. We don’t use kaffir lime juice for cooking as it’s bitter. Whatever lime juice you use, it has to be freshly squeezed.
You want to get Thai palm sugar which is not as sweet as its Malay and Indonesian counterparts. If unavailable, your best bet is regular white sugar, not brown sugar, which is too strong in every way.
Toasted Rice Powder
This Thai dipping sauce contains toasted rice powder (khao khua) as one of its ingredients, a clear indication of its Isan origin.
Khao khua adds a gritty texture as well as a smoky and toasty flavour to nam jim jaew. As its potency goes fairly quickly, it’s best to prepare a small amount as you need it.
It also thickens your dipping sauce, so the more you use, the thicker your nam jim. Adjust this accordingly, if you like.
Click here for our homemade toasted rice powder. If you can’t find glutinous rice for it, your best bet is some form of starchy rice, rice pudding rice or even risotto rice.
Making Nam Jim Jaew at Home
It’s really, really very easy. Once you have the toasted rice powder ready, it should take you no more than 5 minutes with all the chopping and mixing. This is what we’ll be doing:
- Make the toasted rice powder (about 10 minutes).
- Chop up the shallots and herb.
- Mix everything up and stir to dissolve the palm sugar.
How to Serve it?
It’s perfect with just about anything! Here are some ideas:
- with grilled or fried food.
- as a salad dressing (it’s the sauce we use when making larb, in terms of ingredients).
- use it to drizzle just about anything you want, like boiled eggs, omelettes and potatoes.
- one of my favourite ways of having it is with rice, an egg and a green salad. Simple meal, but sooo delicious!
How long will it Last?
Nam jim jaew is meant to be eaten fresh. I like to leave it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. This allows the flavour to develop and for it to thicken slightly.
On the odd occasion when it doesn’t get finished in one sitting, I cover it with cling film and keep it in the fridge overnight. In terms of flavour, it’s so much better the next day, and thicker too. But the shallots are not as crunchy.
But I won’t keep it any longer than 24 hours.
And now, shall we get our aprons on?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor and hashtag it #linsfood.
More Chilli Recipes
Nam Jim Jaew (Thai Dipping Sauce)
- 1 Knife
- 1 Chopping board
- 1 small bowl
- 1 tablespoon
- 2 shallots about 60g/2 oz in total
- 5 sprigs fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp Thai palm sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp red chilli flakes
- ½ Tbsp toasted rice powder
- Chop the shallots up roughly, not too finely and drop into a bowl.
- Chop up the coriander leaves along witgh its stems and add to the bowl.
- Add the fish sauce.
- Squeeze the lime juice in.
- Stir in the palm sugar until it dissolves.
- Finally, stir in the red chilli flakes and the toasted rice powder, reserving some of the rice powder for a final light garnish. Taste it and adjust the the fish sauce, lime juice or sugar. You are going for a sour and salty taste.Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
6 thoughts on “Nam Jim Jaew (Thai Dipping Sauce)”
Personally it is an irritation when anything isn’t proofread. And. When writings are rerun without being proofread, again, it is enough for me to unsubscribe. Where is the “amount given” for the chili flakes? Oh. That’s right. Chili flakes are only mentioned in the introduction of the recipe while observed in the photos. Have you ever even made this recipe?
All you had to do was tell me I’d left out an ingredient. Missing out on details happens to the best of us, there’s a human behind this blog, not a bot. Did I make the recipe? Well, the answer to that is in the pictures, no?
Second time I’m making this recipe, meant to tell you the first time about the missing flakes but it slipped my mind. Didn’t stop me from making it though, very obvious from the image how much to use.
I just wanted to let you know, from a longtime subscriber, after that silly woman’s comment above.
ps: the recipe’s a winner!
Thanks Pete, I’m pleased to hear you love the recipe.
Thanks for taking the time to share the recipe Azlin, it’s amazing.
My pleasure, Kwun.