So I had really intended to make a dipping sauce, but I think what I came up with was actually better. This garlic, ginger and chili paste can be thinned down with vinegar or water to make a sauce, mixed through tomato sauce to make it more interesting, added to minced pork or turkey for a spicy start to a noodle dish – I’m sure there are many more possibilities, perhaps not endless but at least with an end quite far away so you’d have to squint to see it. I had a look round for some recipes, and came across this page on Viet World Kitchen, which gives two different methods of making a Vietnamese chili sauce, called Tuong Ot Toi. I used the cooked method on Andrea’s post, but made several changes to come up with my own version, which I scrawled on the back of an envelope as I went along. Here it is in a much neater format:
- 10 red chilis
- 4 cloves garlic
- 50g ginger
- 4 tbsp light brown sugar
- 4 tsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp wild garlic sea salt
Don’t you just love that photo? I do, I like how the chilis are a bit knobbly and the stems are all curved in and getting to know each other. The other ingredients felt over-shadowed so I tried to fancy them up a bit too. Not sure how well it worked out, I’m still learning.
I removed the seeds and pith from half the chilis to moderate the heat, and then chopped all the ingredients roughly. The basic premise of this is that tried and tested method of ‘bung everything in the food processor and press go’, so that’s what I did. The colour is incredible, so beautiful and uplifting. The smell is very spicy, as you can imagine, but not enough so that you feel like a tiny imp has crawled up and is branding his or her name inside our nostrils with a poker made out of a pin.
You can see that the processed ingredients aren’t very cohesive; that’s my not very good way of saying that there’s a load of chopped up stuff, then there’s a load of liquid, and they don’t want to stay mixed together. I wanted to cook the sauce to take the edge off the garlic taste, but now I also thought that it would help bring the ingredients together in such a way as they would stay together. With this in mind, I scraped the sauce into a pot and put over a high heat for 10 minutes, stirring almost continually so that there would be no sticking to the pot and burning. Not on my watch.
After the ten minutes were up, I put it back into the food processor for a final whizz and that was that – fresh, home made ginger, garlic and chili paste, ready to be used. It is thick, it is beautiful to look at and its olfactory effect is nothing short of tingly. See how I try to avoid using the word ‘fragrant’ yet again? The flavour is a lovely, layered affair – first, the sharp ginger zing on the tip of your tongue and sugary sweetness, then the searing heat spreading through the rest of your mouth, then, not wanting to be outshone, the round garlic at the end. It’s good stuff, but I would recommend using it in a diluted form. More vinegar would thin it but might alter that delicate balance of flavours between hot, sour and spicy. Perhaps better to use water, perhaps thickened with a little cornflour or arrowroot if you need it, which will give a slightly gloopy texture like bottled chili sauce. Or another thing to try could be to cook for only five minutes (or not at all), then press the sauce/paste through a fine mesh strainer, to give a smooth result. I suspect that the raw garlic might be a bit much, though it may ‘cook’ in the vinegar and sugar over time.