The Four Flavours

If you visit a roadside noodle stall in Thailand you will see on the tables a small basket with four jars. These are the condiments that you can add to your noodle soup. Which ones you add and how much is entirely up to you. In some ways it is a bit like being a scientist as you need a certain amount of skills to get the balance right. These condiments give you the four basic flavours: namely hot, sour, salty and sweet.

In the top left of this picture is ‘nam som prik’. This is basically sliced chilies (prik) in vinegar (nam som). In the picture below, ‘nam som’ has a more of a brown look because the chilies have been pounded. This obviously gives you your sour taste.

Next, in the top right of the picture, is ‘prik pon’ which is basically dried red chili which is either flaked or ground to a powder. This is the heat. In the bottom right is ‘namtaan’ which is normal white sugar. Obviously this is the sweet part. It was a bit strange for me to put sugar in my noodles to start with but it no longer tastes the same without it. So, just do as the Thais do and put a good tablespoon full in!

Finally, in my picture you can also see two bottles of ‘nam blaa’, or fish sauce. Sometimes you will see this in a jar too but mixed with chilies. This version is then called ‘prik nam blaa’. In some restaurants you might see a jar of ground peanuts.

I will talk about the different noodles another day.

4 responses to “The Four Flavours

  1. I love gooay dtee-o (noodles). I keep wanting to eat at those street vendors like when I was a kid cos even if it was a run-down place, the noodles would still taste good.

  2. Great blog Richard –

    Last summer my friend Chai came from Bangkok to visit and he brought me a TON of stuff as Thank you gifts since he stayed as my house guest the month he was here and saved a lot of money!

    One thing I wanted most when he asked what he could bring from Thailand was a ‘puen prik’ for condiments like in your blog. Mine is a small metal tray and a carrying handle and four glass jars with lids and tiny spoons for each of the condiments. I love it and it looks so cool on my kitchen table. 🙂

    Thanks for the great blog now I also know the names of each condiment. That reminds me I need to go shopping it’s been awhile since I made any hot, spicy Thai food. 😛



  3. That’s one main thing about eating Thai noodle dishes. You’ve got to flavor it yourself !!!

    No matter how good the noodle dishes were made, you “still” have to flavor it youself.

    I’ve gone out to Thai restaurants with non-Thai co-workers and when they order Thai noodle dishes, they just eat them as-is !!!

    I told them, hey, you’ve got to add the condiments. Still they did not listen. 8-(

  4. I usually eat them as is. I figure if a place is famous for their food, that means it MUST taste good on its own merit. If it wasn’t to my liking, then I’ll add. Same with food here.

    Then again, I don’t have the chili tolerance to be adding all sort of other stuff.