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Kapi is a salty fermented shrimp paste which is much loved in Thai cuisine. It is a dark purple, thick, soft paste, much thicker than the Chinese version. It has a very strong aroma and flavour which most farang find off-putting, but I love it.

Besides being an essential ingredient in Thai curry pastes, it can be added to stir fried water spinach. But most commonly it is made into a dip which is as ubiquitous in Thai homes as grilled cheese sandwiches are in North American ones. When I teach Thai cooking I usually include this in the class, just because it's so popular in Thailand; perhaps half the class likes it, and the rest can't even bring themselves to taste it, it smells so pungent.

Curious? Here's what you do:

  • Wrap a tablespoon or 2 of kapi in foil and toast in a dry frying pan for a minute or 2.
  • In a large mortar and pestle, grind together 1 or 2 garlic cloves and 1 or 2 fresh little hot Thai chilis. Grind to a paste.
  • Add the kapi and grind to combine.
  • Now add 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and fish sauce. I recommend using a spoon to mix this in, because if you splash yourself with this, you'll be discarding your shirt. Trust me.
  • That's it. Common dipping foods include fresh or steamed vegetables (greens, yard long green beans, snow peas, cucumber, eggplants) and steamed mackerel.

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