Nam Pril Num (Charred Chili Salsa)

This wax-type chile originated in Hungary and was brought to the US in the 1930’s. Yellow chiles of several different varieties are a staple in Eastern European cuisine. These chiles can be pickled, battered and fried or used in salsas and salads.Hungarian Wax chiles have alot of flavor without the bitter aftertaste that you can get from many of the green types of chile. Try substituting some of these in your chile recipes next time.

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4 or 5 fresh Hungarian wax chiles
1/4 pound shallots, halved (if large, quartered)
6-8 garlic cloves, halved if large
1/2 pound vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
2 to 3 Tbsp. packed fresh coriander leaves, coarsely torn
2 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce (preferably naam pla)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
lettuce leaves for garnish

Heat a dry cast-iron skillet over high heat until hot. Add the chiles and reduce the heat to medium-high. Dry-fry the chiles, pressing down on them gently and turning with tongs, until blackened on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the chiles to a cutting board. Add the shallots and garlic, and reduce the heat to medium-high. Dry-fry the shallots and garlic, turning once, until softened and blackened, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the shallots and garlic into a bowl, and let cool slightly.

Dry-fry the tomatoes in the same manner. Wearing rubber gloves, cut off the stem ends of the chiles and slice them lengthwise, discarding any seeds (unless you want a very hot salsa). Finely chop the chiles, shallots and garlic, and transfer to a ceramic or glass bowl. Remove and discard the tomato stems and skins. Finely chop the tomatoes and add with any juices to the chile mixture. Add coriander to taste, then add the fish sauce and lime juice. Stir until combined (the salsa will be chunky and a little soupy).

Alternatively, all the ingredients can be chopped together in a food processor, but the salsa has a more traditional coarse texture when chopped by hand. Let the salsa stand, covered for 30 minutes, to blend and mellow the flavors. Salsa keeps, covered and chilled for about 5 days. Serve the salsa at room temperature.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.