This keeps well if stored in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator. Makes about 500 ml (2 cups).
10 large dried red chilies
1 rounded tablespoon dried tamarind
185 g/6 oz/1 1/2 cups dried shrimp
375 g/12 oz shallots, peeled and sliced
or 3 large onions, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup peanut oil
125 g/4 oz palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons lime juice
Break stems off chillies and shake out seeds. Pour boiling water over the chilies and leave to soak for 15 minutes. In another bowl soak dried tamarind in 1/2 cup boiling water. When cool enough, squeeze to dissolve pulp, then strain. Repeat with a little more water if there is still pulp to be dissolved.
In an electric blender blend shrimp on high speed until reduced to a floss. Empty into a bowl and without washing the blender put in the drained chilies, shallots, garlic and peanut oil. Blend on high speed until puréed. Pour into a shallow pan and fry on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the oil comes to the surface. Add palm sugar, tamarind liquid and shrimp floss and simmer for 5 minutes, or until sauce reaches a thick dipping consistency. Add the fish sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. When cool stir in the lime juice.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)