from one generation to the next
There’s so much to love about the food of SE Asia. It’s the wonderful mouth tingling balance of hot sweet salty aromatic flavours backed by an umami punch that I can’t resist so I was super excited to see a recipe for Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce in Diana Henry’s cookbook “Sugar Salt Smoke.” Other than tamari, Sweet Chilli Sauce is the one Asian condiments I buy just to use as a dipping sauce.
Using Henry’s recipe as a guide I’ve added subtracted and swapped ingredients so that the end result not only tastes great but the sauce won’t upset sensitive tummies either.
This is much much more than any other sweet chilli sauce I’ve ever tasted. The sweetness is restrained and beautifully balanced with the acid of the lime and vinegar, while the herbal notes of coriander and lemongrass shine through freshly. I discarded the seeds from half of the chillies as Henry suggested and found the heat factor is just right, it has an assertive presence but doesn’t make your eyes water.
The whole process was quick and easy thanks to the food processor, but you could pound the aromatics into a paste with a mortar and pestle if you wanted to channel your inner Thai.
Just a few notes of caution….
1.Wear rubber gloves while preparing the chillies to prevent finger burn and then accidental subsequent rubbing of your eyes with chilli fingers.
2. Make the caramel in a deep sided saucepan so minimise errant splatters when you add the other ingredients.
3. Wear an oven mitt when you pour the chilli paste into the caramel to protect your hand and forearm from splatter burns.
4. Avoid inhaling the chilli laden fumes that rise from the pot when you add the aromatic paste. They will take your breath away!
PS. Half way through eating a batch of rice paper rolls we were looking for more salt and sugar than this batch of Hot Chilli Sauce delivered. This recipe needs to be tweaked a little for our taste, but that doesn’t demean the delicious of this sauce, we were being super analytical.
Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce (makes 500mls)
6 large red chillies, 3 deseeded, roughly chopped
40g root ginger (peeled weight) roughly chopped
1 cup (firmly packed) fresh coriander leaves
2 stems of lemon grass, tender middle part, roughly sliced
finely grated zest 3 limes
juice of 2 limes
50mls fish sauce (nam pla)
120 mls rice vinegar
300g castor sugar
1/4 cup water
Make a paste using the chillies, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, lime zest and juice. Process until very very finely chopped. Add the fish sauce and vinegar.
In a deep sided heavy based saucepan, combine the sugar and water then place over a high heat and bring to the boil, gently stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Simmer the sugar syrup until a deep caramel colour.
Very carefully pour in the other ingredients. The hot caramel will spit.
Return the mixture to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
Leave to cool then pour into a sterilised jar* with an acid resistant lid.
Store in the refrigerator.
Will keep almost indefinitely.
*Click the link to find the instructions for preparing jars for the storage of preserves.