There’s no way to talk about drinking in Thailand without also talking about eating — and vice-versa. Pick up a copy of Thai food master Andy Ricker’s new collection of recipes that focus on the drinking food of Thailand. It’s simple, tasty, and often involves being fried and dipped in sauce. Or in this case, in Thai salt chili dip. Grab a mango, it’s snacktime.
Even the most informal bars in Thailand have food. By day, a table on the sidewalk might host a modest pork butcher shop. By night, a relative of the pork butcher runs a curbside drinking establishment, with the same table now draped with an oilcloth. There’s an ice bucket, a pitcher of water, and assorted bottles of rice-based liquor, like lao khao, ya dawng, and Sang Som, the ubiquitous brand of Thai rum. A woman dispenses shots to men who have already consumed enough to tell you loudly in English that you will “save the world.” You slowly realize that they’re referring to the movie Armageddon. This is not the first time a drunk Thai man has informed you that you look like Bruce Willis.
At a place like this, the food on offer is simple — probably sliced fresh fruit with salty-sweet chile powder for dipping. I especially like it when the fruit is green mango, which is crunchy and far more tart than sweet. In the States, there’s pretty much just one variety to choose from. Sold mainly at Southeast Asian and South Asian markets, the green mangoes you’re after aren’t just firm and unripe but also actually green — not mottled or greenish — in color.
- 12 stemmed dried Thai chilies
- 1/2 cup rock sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 2 green mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into spears
- A Thai granite mortar and pestle
For the dip
Firmly pound the chiles in the mortar to a fairly fine powder. Add the sugar and pound to a fairly fine powder. Add the salt, mix, then pound until the mixture has the texture of granulated sugar. You should have about 85 g / ½ cup. It will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks.
Serve the mangoes with about 2 tablespoons of the chile mixture