Look for dried shrimp which are salmon pink and yield slightly when pressed through the packet, indicating freshness.
3 tablespoons small dried shrimp
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 shallots or small red onions
2 fresh red chillies
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
Wash the dried shrimp and put in a shallow dish. Soak in just enough hot water to cover for about 10 minutes. This softens the shrimp and any sandy veins can be removed. Put shrimp into a mortar with the garlic, shallots and chillies, all chopped. Pound steadily for a few minutes until mashed to a paste. Gradually stir in the lime juice, palm sugar, fish sauce and water. If preferred, pulverize in an electric blender, though a little extra water may be needed. Serve in a small bowl with a selection of vegetables in season to be dipped in the nam prik and eaten as an appetizer.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)