Yunnan chili sauce

A well-balanced condiment for vegetables, meat, and noodles with a tangy, spicy touch.

I served it on top of stir fried mixed greens and Chinese marinated duck. I can see that this sauce will vanish quickly from our fridge!

Inspired by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s cookbook HOT SOUR SALTY SWEET.

Makes about 3/4 cup


  • 1 cup bird’s eye chili, frozen or fresh
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1.5 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1.5 tsp Chinese dark vinegar
  • 1 tbsp nut oil
  • 4.5 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven with grill function at 200℃.

Line baking tray with baking paper and spread chilis in a single layer. Place tray in oven on upper rack. Roast for about 10-18 minutes, until chilis start to char. 
Once the chilis start to char, flip them over and let them roast again until both sides are lightly charred but not burnt. Remove chilis from oven and set aside to cool.

Roughly crush cumin seeds with mortar and pestle. Heat small saucepan on medium-high heat. Add oil, then crushed cumin seeds. Fry until cumin seeds are fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring frequently so that they don’t scorched.

Add chopped shallots, stir to combine, and let mixture sauté until shallots are soft and translucent. Set aside.

Wearing plastic gloves, use scissors to trim chilis, removing stems and cutting chilis in half. Place chilis, water, sugar, and salt into a food processor and blend until a runny, smooth paste is formed.

Return saucepan with cumin and shallots to stove and set at medium-high heat. Add chili mixture, stirring constantly and making sure all ingredients are combined. Cook until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add dark vinegar, stirring well to combine.

Pour chili paste into a sterilized jar and store it in the fridge. Use sauce as a condiment for noodles, steamed vegetables, or poached and marinated meat dishes. 

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