I’m going to give you fair warning, this is one you’re going to have to psych yourself up for. It’s a little time-consuming and kind of messy. But it’s so worth it and it makes enough that you won’t have to do it again for 6 months. If you only make one new recipe this year – this Thai chilli jam should be it. I don’t make curry pastes from scratch, but this should be a staple in everyone’s fridge. So, just psych yourself up and do it. Do it! Thai chilli jam is really versatile and can be used in everything from Thai-style salads to stir fries.
[Looking back at this post six years later, I am surprised at the shocking quality of a) the photos and b) my inability to write anything interesting. Thankfully, I have gotten a lot better over the years. This is a great recipe, and still a staple in my pantry and Martin Boetz is still one of my favourite Aussie chefs. That said, you can but pretty decent ready made Thai chilli jam at Asian grocers these days if you don’t want to devote 2+ hours to this.)
- 2½ cups vegetable oil, or peanut oil
- 2 cups red onions, finely sliced
- ¾ cup garlic, finely sliced
- ¾ - 1½ cups dried red chillis (depending how hot they are) seeds removed
- ½ cup dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 10 mins then drained
- 3 cm galangal, peeled sliced and dry roasted
- 100 g palm sugar
- 100ml fish sauce
- 3 tbsp tamarind pulp, in ½ cup hot water, mashed and strained to obtain juice
- Heat the oil in a wok over a medium–high heat to 160°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 25–30 seconds.
- Fry the onions until they turn the colour of lightly stained pine, stirring continuously, for about 8–9 minutes. Use a metal fine-mesh flat sieve to remove the onions from the oil (set them aside) and leave the oil in the wok. If you don't have this type of sieve, strain the oil, reserve the onions and return the oil to the wok. You use the same oil for each of the fried components of this chilli jam.
- Fry the garlic until a light golden colour, stirring continuously, for about 8–10 minutes, then remove from the oil. Set aside with the onions.
- Fry the chillies for no more than 10 seconds as they burn quickly. Remove when they are a deep red colour.
- Fry the dried shrimp, moving them around in the oil to ensure even cooking, for about 1 minute. Remove and drain on paper towel. Reserve the oil.
- Heat a small frying pan over a low heat, then dry-roast the galangal, stirring continuously, for about 10–15 minutes.
- Combine all these fried ingredients in a mixing bowl. You can make this into a paste in three ways: –pound all these fried ingredients in a large mortar and pestle (the hard way); –blend all these fried ingredients in a food processor (I do this); –use a mincer attachment and mince these fried ingredients three times, then finish by blending in a food processor. This last method gives the best result according to Martin Boetz.
- Transfer the paste to a heavy-based saucepan, strain the reserved oil into the pan and stir to combine well. Heat the mixture almost to boiling point. When hot, add the palm sugar, fish sauce or salt, and tamarind. Stir to mix through, and taste. The paste should have a rich, roasted, sweet, sour and salty taste - adjust adding more palm sugar, fish sauce or tamarind as needed. Cook out the paste for a further 5 minutes if more ingredients were added, then remove from the heat.
- It is often used as a base to flavour other dishes, and keeps in the refrigerator for 3–4 months.
Dried Thai chillis, which is what you’ll usually find at Asian supermarkets are hotter than Australian ones. Unless you have a high heat tolerance, you’ll need to use closer to ¾ cup amount of chillies.
Don’t touch dried chillies and then touch your face – it burns! Very ouchies.