Dried chili flakes and chili sauce

There are only three kinds of chili in Filipino cooking: siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili), once in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the spiciest chili in the world but which has since relinquished the title to new and spicier breeds of Mexican chilis; the milder and larger siling haba (finger chilis); and the less known siling bilog or round chili.

We have three shrubs of bird’s eye chili in the garden, we’re trying to grow bell peppers and I’m planning to grow finger chilis too. Right now, the shrubs of bird’s eye chili have so many fruits that they fall to the ground before we can pick them for use in cooking.

So, my husband, Speedy, decided to make good use of them. And for those of you who also have too much fresh chili in your pantry, here are two suggestions: make dried chili flakes or chili sauce, or both. It’s easy. Just make sure to protect your eyes.

casaveneracion.com Bird's eye chili from my garden

First, choose the very ripe chilis.

casaveneracion.com Bird's eye chili from my garden

You’ll know which are ripe by looking (they would normally be the largest and plumpest) and pinching (ripe chilis are softer than non-ripe ones).

Wash the chilis and dab with a kitchen towel or air dry them, if you have time. Cut off the top stems. Chop the chilis. Heat a pan and, over medium-low heat, dry fry (meaning no oil added) the chopped chilis until dry. Like this.

casaveneracion.com dried chili flakes

Now, let me warn you. The smoke that the dry frying will create will really sting your eyes. And your throat. I was upstairs in my study when Speedy was dry frying the chilis in the kitchen and the smoke invaded my space and made me cough. So, protect your eyes (goggles would be a good idea) and your throat (a face mask like surgeons wear might be useful). You might also want to wear gloves before chopping the chilis — they are so hot that they can sting your skin. AND remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them especially if you’re not wearing gloves.

Now, if you think you have too much dried chili flakes, you can use a portion to make chili sauce. You know, the condiment one usually finds in Chinese restaurants? Here’s how you can make your own.

Place the dried chili flakes in a heatproof jar (how much depends on how hot you want your sauce). Heat about half a cup of peanut (or soya) oil in a pan. The moment it starts to smoke, turn off the heat and pour the hot oil into the jar of chili flakes. Stir. Let steep until cool (the oil will turn red). Stir in half a teaspoonful of sesame seed oil and cool completely before putting on the lid.

For variety, if you like garlicky chili sauce, when your dry fry the chilis, toss in some finely chopped garlic.

This entry has been entered in the Grow Your Own event.