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Hot Sauce and Chili Crisp with Makrut Lime Leaves

Hot Sauce and Chili Crisp with Makrut Lime Leaves

Renée Robinson

It Began with Hot Sauce and Continued From There.

You know how it is when you set out to make one thing and it turns into something else? Well, in this case I actually ended up with what I started out to make, but had a bonus which ended up being the main character. 

This adventure began with the idea of making my own fermented hot sauce. It’s not a big deal. A bunch of Fresno chilies, garlic, and a little muscovado sugar are ground up and then put aside in a jar until little bubbles appear in the bottom of the jar. Then, it’s left to sit for 2 more days before proceeding. But my son and I put our heads together and decided to make something different, rather than making a typical hot sauce. We wanted it to also have flavors of which we’re particularly fond. 

I added a stalk of lemongrass, several makrut lime leaves, and unsweetened shredded coconut to the ground chili mixture and put it aside for 5 days while it fermented. At that point, vinegar and water were added, the lime leaves were removed, and everything else was pulverized again in my Vitamix.  The solids were then strained out of the liquid and the remaining sauce was cooked down until it reached our desired consistency and was tweaked for flavor.

But all those solids that were strained out? I tasted them and decided there was no way I was going to throw them away. I spread them out on a parchment lined half sheet pan and dried them out in a 200 degree oven. It took 3 1/2 hours to get them completely dry and more or less crisp. As you can see in this photo, I had a lot of very tasty solids left over. Besides the chilies, there was ground up coconut, lemongrass and seasonings in the mix. I could have ground them up and been left with a great chili flake, but since I’d gone this far I opted to make chili crisp in oil.

My son and I had a ball tweaking the flavors of this concoction. We toasted some tiny dried shrimp in a dry wok, infused a quart of neutral vegetable oil with about 20 lime leaves, removed them, heated the oil to 375 degrees and poured it over the dried chili solids. Having make chili crisp in the past I knew what to expect. As the hot oil hits the dried chilies, it bubbles, splatters, and instantly cooks and crisps them.

After stirring it all up and letting it sit for a few minutes, I added toasted sesame seeds, nigella seeds, the toasted dried shrimp, salt, black pepper, fish sauce, palm sugar, crispy shallots and MSG. You can eliminate the MSG if you have objections, but it most definitely enhanced the overall flavor.

We’ve declared this the best chili crisp we’ve ever tasted. It is truly exceptional. And the good thing about it is you can add or subtract ingredients to suit your own taste. As for us, we wouldn’t change a thing. 

Hot Sauce and Chili Crisp with Makrut Lime Leaves

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Hot sauce with a difference - It's full of Fresno chilies, garlic, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, and desiccated coconut. Then the best chili crisp I've ever tasted is made with the solids. Just wow.

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  • Ingredients for Hot Sauce with Lime Leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds (700g) Fresno chilies, stemmed

  • 6 large garlic cloves

  • 70 g dark muscovado sugar, or dark brown sugar

  • 13 g Morton’s kosher salt

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed of outer leaves and chopped into 2 or 3 pieces

  • 5 makrut lime leaves

  • 50 g desiccated unsweetened coconut

  • 2 tablespoons water, plus 3/4 cup for finishing

  • 5 tablespoons white vinegar

  • Ingredients for Chili Crisp with Lime Leaves
  • 3 tablespoons tiny dried shrimp

  • 4 cups neutral vegetable oil

  • 20 makrut lime leaves

  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons nigella seeds

  • 1 tablespoon Morton’s kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar

  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon MSG, optional

  • 1/3 cup crispy fried shallots (I buy them in jars already prepared)


  • Directions for Hot Sauce with Lime Leaves
  • Combine chilies, garlic, sugar and salt in a blender and pulverize. Place in a 1 quart jar, along with the lemongrass, 5 makrut lime leaves, and coconut. Stir, cover and let sit until tiny bubbles appear at the bottom of the jar, stirring once every day. The bubbles appeared after sitting for 3 days. Let sit for 2 more days, stirring once each day.
  • Add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. Pulverize again in a blender. Strain the liquid from the solids into a medium sized sauce pan, reserving the solids.
  • Add 3/4 cup water to the pan and cook over medium heat until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt, vinegar or sugar, if required. Let completely cool and pour into a bottle or jar. Refrigerate for a couple of days before using.
  • Directions for Chili Crisp with Lime Leaves
  • Preheat the oven with a rack in the middle to 200 degrees. Spread the reserved chili solids onto a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 3 1/2 hours until fully dried, tossing every hour. Let cool and place in a large heatproof bowl.
  • Over medium heat, toast the dried shrimp in a wok until fully crisp. Remove from the wok.
  • Add the oil to the wok, along with 20 lime leaves and cook over low heat until the leaves sizzle and mostly turn transparent. Remove the lime leaves and increase the heat to medium. Heat the oil until it registers 375 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Immediately pour the oil over the dried chilies. Stand back as you do this because it will steam and bubble. Stir a few times and let sit for a couple of minutes.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients and stir well. Let cool to room temperature and transfer to jars. I’m keeping mine in the refrigerator, but I let it come to room temperature before adding to any warm food. Enjoy!


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