Chili sauce! It seems that there are more types of chilis and more types of chili sauces than there are people to eat them. Chili sauces are found in many regional cuisines, especially Africa, South America and the Caribbean, Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico, China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and South-East Asia.
Some form of chilli sauce is to be found in most kitchens. Americans tend to prefer food enhanced with a small amount of chilli rather than dominated by it, although there are many who love the extreme chilli taste, and will argue the merits of various sauces that claim to be the hottest available.
Chili sauces can also vary in sweetness, depending on the quantity of sugar or other sweetening agent such as fructose has been added. This type of chilli sauce is popular as a dipping sauce for crisp Chinese or Malaysian spring rolls and similar dishes.
Sweet Chili Sauce
- 1 cup fresh red chilis (seeds removed) roughly chopped
- 8 small garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 2 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Blend and crush chilis, garlic and ginger in a pestle and mortar (use a blender if you must!) Place in saucepan with vinegar, salt and sugar. Boil until a syrupy consistency has been reached, taste for seasoning. Bottle the finished chili sauce in sterilized jars and cover tightly (sterilize the lids too!). This chili sauce will keep without refrigeration for 3 months, refrigerate after opening.
How Chili Heat is Measured
Chilis come in a range of degrees of “heat”. The active ingredient in a chilli is the capsaicin, which triggers a response in the human brain that creates a physical sensation of burning.
If you are exposed to an uncomfortable level of chilli heat, the best thing to use to calm it down is milk, cream or a similar product such as yoghurt or ice cream. Another good way to control the heat is rice, if you are eating a curry. Don’t drink water to control the heat - capsaicin dissolves in fat but not in water, so that won’t work.
What is the hottest chilli in the world? Chili heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), representing the proportion of capsaicin present in the chilli fruit. Pure capsaicin has 60 million SHU and bell peppers have zero. The ubiquitous Tabasco sauce comes in between 2,5500 and 5000 SHU. Until December 2010 the hottest chili in the world was the Naga Jolokia (also called Bhut Jolokia) with 1,041,427 SHU. However it has now been overtaken by one of its own cultivars, a cross between Naga Jolokia and the Trinidad Hybrid, called the Naga Viper, with a certified 359,000 SHU.
The best way to work out how hot a chili sauce might be is to find out what type of chili was used to make it. A good chili sauce will have the chili identified in the ingredients list. The major chili types, from mildest to hottest, are Jalapeno, Cayenne, Tabasco, Habanero and Piri Piri. The hottest sauces of all are made from capsaicin extract. Many chili sauces contain other ingredients such as tomatoes or tomato ketchup, salt, vinegar, garlic, onions, carrots and ginger. Sometimes the apparent heat comes from these and spices such as ground pepper.
Recipe for Hot Chili Sauce
This video shows how to make a Mexican style red chili sauce base, and then how to season it up if desired. Caution: the demonstrator uses a stick blender – if you have access to a stand blender these operation will be much easier and less messy.
- 12 dried red chili pods
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp flour
- ½ tsp oregano
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped)
Wearing gloves, wash chilis thoroughly in warm water, then remove the stems, seeds and membranes (leaving the membranes in will make a hotter sauce). Simmer the chilis in water for 10 minutes. Replace the chilli water if a bitter taste develops. Pour into blender and purée until smooth. Sieve to remove any solids. The chili sauce can be frozen at this point if desired. Add oil to a skillet, add cook garlic if using fresh, then add flour. Stir over low heat until flour is cooked – about 2 minutes. Do not allow flour to brown. Add chili purée and mix in. Add salt, oregano, cumin and garlic powder (if using), stir and simmer about 5 minutes. Taste and add adjust seasoning.
Recipe for Chili Salsa
A salsa is an uncooked sauce, generally used for dipping or as a topping. Here a cooking teacher from Mexico explains how to make a salsa with dried red chilis and green tomatoes, first using the traditional pestle and mortar, and then using a blender.
For more chili sauce recipes, please visit: Chili Sauce Recipes Video Blog.
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