Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sonam's Summer Chili: A refreshing take on a chili sauce

I spent my day at Tashi Jong along with a large group of Tibetan volunteers clearing away literally tons of rock, brick, cement and sand from what had been a foundation in order to make room for a new building at the monastery. It was a lot of fun, although very hard work, and basically consisted of carrying large buckets full of rocks on our heads.

Special Kudos to the ladies of Tashi Jong who not only made up the majority of the workers, but about half of them were working in ankle length skirts.

Around 10 AM we had a tea break with sweet milk tea, fried bread and chili sauce.

Now remember, 10 AM. HOT summer's day. We've been lugging rocks around. The idea of sweet milk tea, fried bread and chili sauce was NOT appealing. Especially since Tibetan chili sauces tend to be very heavy and thick.

And then I tasted the chili sauce. WOW. My friend Sonam, who runs a local restaurant, had specially made a chili sauce for us using mint. It was hot but also cooling and refreshing. Even though I didn't want to eat fried bread in this heat, I had two just so that I could eat enormous dollops of this chili sauce. Below is the recipe as she told it to me. This is to serve a lot of people, but you can just take the recipe and cut it down, or save the leftovers in the fridge.

Sonam's Summer Chili Sauce

1 kg Small tomatoes, finely chopped
A bit less than 1/2 kg red onions, finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
10 small green chilis, finely chopped.
Small handful of fresh, green mint leaves. Finely chopped
Salt to taste
MSG (optional) to taste
Erma (Hua Jiao. Sichuan peppercorn. Optional) ground, to taste.

(instead of chopping, you can use a blender)

Mix all the vegetables , mint and garlic together. sprinkle the condiments on top. Mix them together and let it sit until the tomatoes have started to release their juices. Serve chilled.


Like a magical Tibetan salsa. Mm, mm, mm.

PS: I'm wondering how a dash of lemon juice would contribute....anyone want to try it and tell me?


  1. In our stores here in Oregon, we have loads of chilis. Big, tiny, honking huge, medium, all with different tastes and pow-gunga (heat). What kind of chili do you use. Do they have a name? Do you put the seeds and veins in?

    Now to the mint. We also grow lots of types of mint. Strong flavor? Peppermint? Spearmint?

    These things are important!

  2. To be honest, I'd have to ask Sonam. Seeds and veins were kept in, I know that. I believe it was a relatively small chilly. Consider the red chilis that are standard in north indian markets. As for mint, it tasted like peppermint to me. Of course, you can just experiment and eat what tastes good. Hope this helps!