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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 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.

Adapted from Martin Boetz’s Modern Thai Food
makes about 2 cups

2.5 cups        vegetable oil, or peanut oil
2 cups           red onions, finely sliced
¾ cup            garlic, finely sliced
¾ – 1½ cups  dried red chillis (depends 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

  1. Heat oil until just smoking.
  2. Fry onions until they brown around the edges, remove from oil.
  3. Using the same oil, fry garlic until light golden, then remove from oil.
  4. Using the same oil fry the chillies until they turn dark red and for no more than 15 secs as they burn quickly.
  5. Fry dried prawns for about a minute, and drain.
  6. Reserve the oil.
  7. Add galangal to fried ingredients. Blend.
  8. Place paste in a heavy pot, strain oil over it and stir to combine. Heat to almost boiling.
  9. When hot, add palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind juice. Stir, heat through and remove.
Store in the fridge. It will keep for several months.

You will find Martin Boetz’s original recipe for Thai Chilli Jam online if you search through Google Books.

Tips for making chilli jam:

  • Take your time frying the onions and garlic as the browning is an essential flavour component of the chilli jam.
  • 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.