So for my first experiment, I gathered a couple stalks of lemongrass, a handful of fresh chilies from my youngest uncle's garden, a handful of dried chili pods, some chili sauce I already had in my fridge, and Sriracha hot sauce for color. The result was so tasty that I figured I'd make some to share.
So I went back to my youngest uncle's garden and picked a couple more lemongrass stalks and a little of each variety of chilies. I still added in dried chili pods, Sriracha hot sauce, and half a dozen garlic cloves.
And ended up with a small pot of lemongrass chili sauce to pass along to my aunts and uncles. This sauce was a big hit with my youngest aunt's family and the older '88 even asked to take some with her back to college.
Then it got a little insane. At one point, I counted eight kinds of chili peppers in my sauce. And while I was making this in the kitchen, a friend in the front of the house was coughing from the chili fumes. I guess I've become a little immune but this stuff can be as potent as you want it to be. My youngest uncle then gave me a whole colander full of chili peppers and told me to make some more sauce, especially to give some to my parents. My dad eats fresh chili with everything. He takes a bite of raw chili in between other bites when he's eating.
So yes folks, I made a 14-inch wok-sized amount of chili sauce.
Mmm. Look at all that lovely chili and lemongrass.
Which, in keeping with my grandma's tradition, I jarred and passed along to family members and friends. Henry's mom was a big fan and not-so subtly requested a second jar after the first one ran out. Oh, this wasn't the last batch. I made another batch of two 24-oz and 68-oz jars of sauce, which my parents shared with my aunts in Oregon, but I guess I forgot to photograph that batch. My second-youngest aunt's husband couldn't stop raving about it, which resulted in my cousin T asking for some of her parents' supply of my sauce.
My recipe is only an approximation. Truthfully, I didn't measure anything at all but tasted as I went along, sometimes gulping a glass of water in between a particularly spicy spoonful. We all have different spicy tolerance levels so adjust according to your taste.
Tuong Ot Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Chili Sauce)
Adapted from Andrea of Viet World Kitchen's Vietnamese-style sate chile sauce
For about 2 cups of chili sauce, you'll need:
1 1/2 cups fresh chili peppers of your choice
For color, 1/2 cup of dried chili pods or 1/4 cup Sriracha chili hot sauce
2 lemongrass stalks, finely minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 shallots, or 1 small onion, minced
2 tsp salt
1 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp white vinegar
2 to 4 tblsp fish sauce
1/2 to 1 cup, or more vegetable oil, or a neutral-tasting oil. Olive and sesame oils would be too overpowering.
I pureed the ingredients and cooked the chili sauce in the pan as I went along as lemongrass takes a little longer to soften. If you don't want to do that, you can mince everything separately and set aside the ingredients before cooking. Below are the steps that I went about in making the sauce.
Heat stove to medium and pour about 1/4 cup oil.
Puree lemongrass in food processor until finely minced and add to hot oil. Give it a quick stir.
Then puree about half a dozen cloves of garlic and 4 shallots or 1 small onion. Add that to the pan, turn heat down to medium-low so they don't burn, and give it another quick stir.
Then puree the fresh and dried chili peppers in several small batches, stirring in between. When the lemongrass, garlic, shallots, and chilies have all been added, they'll start releasing their own oils. If the sauce seems too dry, add more oil so that the chili is just lightly covered. This keeps the chili sauce from drying out and helps to preserve its color.
Add 1/4 cup Sriracha chili hot sauce or dried red peppers, 1 tblsp vinegar, 2 tsp salt, 1 tblsp sugar, and 2 to 4 tblsp fish sauce. Stir again. Taste and adjust if necessary.
Let simmer on low for about 10 minutes so the flavors can meld. There should be just a subtle sweetness from the sugar, a bit of savoriness from the fish sauce, a slightly fragrant aroma from the lemongrass, and as spicy as you want it.
Store in jars in the fridge.
Who made my recipe for tuong ot xa?
Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok said, "Holy shit is it good! Even while it was cooking, I could tell it was going to kick ass because the aroma was divine. "
Vicki of A Work in Progress said, "Either WC has an extremely high tolerance for pain, or I used some damn-hot chilis! However, it's soooo tasty. I can't wait to put it on absolutely everything."
Miss.Adventure @Home said, "The aroma was so delicious that I kept trying it even though it was very spicy...I mixed the hoisin sauce with my new chili sauce. It added so many more dimensions to the dipping sauce! I think I especially liked the flavour the lemongrass added."
Shelly in Real Life said, "I’ve been using this sauce for about a month on almost EVERYTHING – it’s my new sriracha!!"
My other Vietnamese chili sauce recipe: Tuong Ot Toi (Vietnamese Garlic Chili Sauce)
I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers. If you'd like to participate, see who's hosting this week. WHB is hosted this week by Erin of The Skinny Gourmet.