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.