Make Your Own Chili Garlic

Chinese Chili garlic sauce recipe


Chiles_red_onesWe threw a dollop of the pureed chiles into our dipping sauce but were woefully disappointed. It lacked punch. No heat. Just red color. Bland.

That lackluster experience inspired me to experiment with Lili and Chuck's recipes. I headed to the farmer's market and found an abundance of red hot peppers. Now is the season to grab the last of the harvest before the pepper plants die off for the year. I remembered from an article I read long ago that Huy Fong used red jalapenos so of course, I went through the pile to collect a bunch of red ones with cracks - signs of maturity and heat. The market also offered smooth serranos and Portuguese hots which despite the farmer's assurance, were actually Italian sweets as I suspected; I sauteed the Italians in peanut oil and ate them with rice. In my home fridge were a few lingering red Fresnos so I threw them in too. Chuck's recipe called for habaneros but he said you could any variety you liked. Lili didn't specify any particular kind but noted that her aunt used whatever she grew in the yard.

Chili_garlic_saucesFrom a pound of chiles, I came up with two bright, fresh, hot condiments that had a pleasant taste but didn't burn or take out all your taste buds. They're simple to make and the difference is that Lili's (on the right below) is cooked after being pureed while Chuck's stays raw. Hers is a tad sweeter, lighter in color and thicker than his. (If you've sampled Cholimex in Vietnam, hers is a superior version of that high-class sauce made in the Motherland.) On the other hand, Chuck's has a marvelous funky heady, almost floral quality. I took the two homemade chili garlic sauces to a Vietnamese Slow Food event that I did last Sunday and people ate the jars clean. I like them both.

Here they are for you to try. Let me know your thoughts . . .


Lili’s Cooked Chili Garlic Sauce

6 ounces hot chiles (e.g., cayenne, Fresnos, habanero, jalapeno, long, serrano, Thai, or a combination of them), stemmed and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Put all the ingredients in an electric mini-chopper or food processor. Process to a coarse texture. Take a whiff and it should make you sweat a bit. Taste and adjust the flavor with add extra salt or sugar. Transfer to a small saucepan, bring to a vigorous simmer over medium heat, lower the heat to gently simmer for about 5 minutes, or until it no longer smells raw. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. Makes a scant 2/3 cup.


Chuck’s Raw Chili Garlic Sauce

6 ounces hot chiles (e.g., cayenne, Fresnos, habanero, jalapeno, long, serrano, Thai, or a combination of them), stemmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Put all the ingredients in an electric mini chopper or food processor. Process to a coarse texture. Take a whiff and it should make you sweat a bit. Taste and adjust the flavor with add extra salt or sugar. Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate. Let stand at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to blend. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Note: Chuck says that if your concoction is too hot, add some bell pepper to tone it down. You can also mitigate the heat with sugar, salt and/or vinegar.

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