bits and pieces

Friday, October 18, 2013

DIY Thai-ish Sweet Chili Sauce

Thai food must be one of the most universally loved cuisines. In fact I don't think I've ever met a person who goes 'eh - I really don't like any of it'. If you are that mystical unicorn of a person, please tell me.

Now in my mind the best parts about Thai food are the fresh veggies and seafood and the contrasting flavours of sweet and spicy, sour and creamy, and on and on.. I don't profess to being a connoisseur - but holy moly do I like it. We went to Thailand a few years ago and each decided to pick one super touristy thing to do. My partner went to an muay thai fight, and I went to a cooking class at a little farm outside of Chiang Mai....

It was delightful. There were hats.

As well as cooking things and semi-successfully pounding out your own chili paste, we also took a trip to a market and I ogled all the Thai chilis. Some of which may have come home in my backpack.

There were also tubs and tubs of delicious curry paste (no more pounding your own!) and if I could have brought them back with me, gosh darn it I would have. I have yet to find a good pre-made panang curry paste in Regina.


Sweet chili sauce is an ubiquitous Thai condiment that has become fairly common even outside of Thai cuisine. I'm fairly certain you can get sweet chili Thai chicken wings at every sports bar in town. While I do not partake in the chicken wings, I do partake in this lovely condiment on the regular. With spring rolls, noodles, salads, tofu, fish cakes.. heck I even put it on tuna sandwiches. It is delicious and also relatively cheap to buy. But why would you buy it full of preservatives and thickening agents if you can make your own in TEN MINUTES?

All that's required are some chili peppers, a blender/food processor, a pot, and about half your attention. Seriously - I made this while cooking dinner the other night. Just popped it on the back burner and POW! Homemade chili sauce which will keep in your fridge for weeks!

2 chili peppers. If you can get red bird peppers - grab them! Be warned though - they are SPICY. If you can't, two red jalapenos or serrano peppers will also work splendidly. The first time I made this I had one jalapeno and two tiny red bird peppers (the smaller the spicier!) and it worked great. If you're really pressed I imagine you could even use red pepper flakes (although I haven't tried it, so proceed at your own risk). 
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp of fresh ginger (DO NOT USE POWDERED. It will make your sauce taste like chalk. If you don't have ginger handy - you can totally omit this. 
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar - I've use rice wine if I've had it handy, but I've also used white vinegar and the difference isn't particularly pronounced. Save your money and use the much more affordable white vinegar. 
3/4 cup of water

1 tbsp corn starch/flour
3 tbsp water

other things you will need: 
a small sauce pot
a small bowl
a whisk
a food processor/blender/immersion blender
a knife and cutting board

  1. The spicy in a pepper comes predominantly from the seeds and the pith (white part holding the seeds to the pepper). If you're not a fan of the spice - carefully de-seed and de-pith your peppers. If you're not wearing gloves, do not rub your eyes after. If you like it spicy - just remove the stems of your peppers if necessary. 
  2. Pop everything  - except your cornstarch/flour and 3 tbsp of water - into a blender and pulverize. This should be blended with tiny flecks of seeds (if you left them in) and pepper bits. It will be a frothy pink blend of peppery goodness.
  3. Pour your mixture into a sauce pan and simmer over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken a bit. This will also help soften any chunks of pepper or garlic and ginger left behind. 
  4. While your sauce is simmering - combine the corn starch/flour and stir to make a slurry (thick pastey mess). 
  5. Whisk into your sauce as it simmers and allow the sauce to thicken until it's reached a sauce like consistency. Clearly, these are precise directions :) 
  6. Cool, and pop it in a mason jar or empty salad dressing bottle and keep it in the fridge. Add it to everything!