Homemade Roasted Chili Paste
This dark, flavorful chili sauce is a wonderful accompaniment to many Southeast Asian dishes. Unsurprisingly, each cuisine has its variations—Indonesian cooks like my mom would add tomatoes and/or red bell peppers. Thai cooks may or may not add sugar. The classic version usually contains shrimp paste. You can choose whether or not to fry the paste once it comes together.
- 4 fresh long red chilies like Fresno (3 oz/85 g total), stemmed and seeded as desired
- 1–2 Thai chilies (optional)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
- ¼ cup (30 g) garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup (45 g) shallots, peeled; chopped if they are large
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1½ teaspoons coconut palm sugar or 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons lime juice (½ large lime) or tamarind juice
- Preheat a medium nonstick cast iron skillet over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until you see wisps of smoke. Reduce the heat to medium and add the red chilies and Thai chilies, if using. Dry-roast for 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until chilies turn brittle and are lightly charred. Transfer to a plate.
- Swirl vegetable oil into a medium skillet and set over medium heat until shimmering hot. Fry the garlic and shallots, turning frequently, until charred on the outside and soft on the inside, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer them to the same plate as the chilies.
- When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and burnt spots from the chilies, garlic and shallots. In a small food processor, grind the chilies until they resemble confetti. Then add the garlic and shallots and grind until a coarse paste forms. Add the salt, sugar and lime or tamarind juice and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If you stop here, the paste will last 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Optional: To make the paste last longer and deepen its flavor, add 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and fry the finished paste over medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes until it turns dark and aromatic. Remove from the heat and use as a condiment or a stir-fry paste. To store, let the paste cool completely before transferring to a glass jar with a tight cap. It will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
- Tip: Personal preference is key, so feel free to add seasonings according to your taste.
- Reprinted with permission from Farm to Table Asian Secrets—Vegan and Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season by Patricia Tanumihardja (Tuttle Publishing, 2017).