Fresh chilli sauce (expanded)

A tiny bit sharp from the vinegar and fiery hot from the small chillis, this fresh chilli sauce is not for the fainthearted. I’ve written about this sauce but only in an offhand kind of way. I think it deserves a full, dedicated post. Below is an extended version with more precise proportions.

Fresh chilli sauce with ginger and garlic

Fresh chilli sauce with ginger and garlic

It’s lovely on the side with Hainan style poached chicken and slices of cucumber, as part of a warm dressing for wonton dumplings or stirred into pasta sauce. A dollop mixed into homemade mayonnaise or aioli gives an amazing kick!

A few months ago, I ate at an newish Malaysian hawker food restaurant in the city. The chicken rice was served with a similar sauce except it was sweetened until it was verging on a sweet chilli sauce. Bad idea. One of the reasons I don’t buy low fat versions of food; usually the sugar content has been increased as a flavour compensation. Quality wise, I’d rather eat less cheese but more of the real thing than the low fat versions.

Young ginger is in season at the moment in Australia and if you can get your hands on some, I recommend using it in this recipe. The smooth texture and light bite is great in this sauce. Otherwise use normal ginger but it is a little stringier than the young variety. The sugar listed below isn’t compulsory and I promise that the resulting sauce isn’t sweet. Somehow it remains tasting fresh for ages, probably helped by the salt and vinegar. Kept well sealed in the fridge, I use the same batch over a good six months but if you’re wary of keeping it so long, use it up within three months.

Feeds: This recipe makes about five 500ml jars but can be easily be divided into thirds
Start cooking: 30 minutes before eating (but probably tastes best made the day before)

Fresh chilli sauce


  • 1.5 kg x small red chillis (e.g. birdseye chillis)
  • 2 medium heads x garlic
  • 180 grams x ginger, roughly chopped (young ginger if possible)
  • 1 and a half teaspoons x salt
  • 375ml x white vinegar
  • 30 grams x sugar (optional)


  1. Prepare jars and lids by placing them in a preheated oven 120C / 250 F for 20 minutes.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and divide into equal thirds.
  3. Cut the stalks off the fresh chillis and divide into equal thirds (500 gram portions).
  4. In a food processor or blender, add a portion of chilli, garlic and 60 grams of fresh ginger.
  5. The proportion of vinegar to chilli should be 1:4. So for 500 grams of chilli, add in about 125ml of white vinegar. Malt vinegar can be used instead but please note that the taste is less neutral.
  6. Add in half a teaspoon of salt and 10 grams of sugar if using and process/blend until smooth and thick.
  7. Pour sauce into the sterilised 500ml glass jars. Continue with remaining ingredients until you’ve made three batches of the sauce.
  8. Seal jars and keep in the fridge for up to six months.