Chilli Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

This hot, tangy chilli sauce is the ultimate condiment to have with prawn vadai. Rahuft and his uncle make a batch once a week and when I visited they had already made the week’s supply, but Rahuft was kind enough to share the recipe with me. He didn’t know the precise quantities for each ingredient and the cooking method was a little vague, so this is more of an inspired version of their recipe.


  • 8 cm ( inch) piece lemongrass, white part only, very finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 cm ( inch) piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 cm ( inch) piece rampe (pandanus) leaf*
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon unroasted chilli powder*
  • teaspoons roasted curry powder (store-bought)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • tablespoons coconut vinegar* (or rice vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • 300 g (10½ oz) tinned tomatoes, puréed


Using a mortar and pestle, pound the lemongrass, garlic, ginger and salt into a paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat and fry the paste with the rampe, cumin and mustard seeds for 3 minutes, stirring regularly so the paste doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add the fenugreek seeds, cinnamon stick, chilli powder, curry powder, turmeric and coriander and cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut vinegar and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve into another saucepan, discarding the solids. Return the liquid to the stove, and add the tomato ketchup and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then simmer over low-medium heat for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.