Family Magic in a Potion

Every year I make a pilgrimage toward the East to eat, play, live… in my childhood home under the auspices of my folks.  These are days I refer to as my flip-flop days, where my toes wriggle free in a pair of havaianas and my legs get tanned by the Eastern sun.  These are happy days, kawan kawan.  These are days where I bask in the love of my parents, becoming once again their little girl, although I am the elder of three daughters.  You know, one’s children never really grow up.  My parents refuse to recognise that I am really a woman with 2 girls of my own and that most crucially, I have passed that important birthday milestone in a woman’s life.  They pamper me with good food, nuggets of advice (all Chinese parents are wiser than their offspring, it must be remembered) and refuse to let me do the washing.  My mother thinks I am incapable so every opportunity she gets, she bundles up the children’s and my dirty clothes to pile them into her state of the art washing machine.  My father fires off strings of advice, like how to deal with pick pockets to the way corn on the cob ought to be eaten.  These are bonding moments, kawan kawan.  I haven’t lived at home for over 20 years.  I only see the folks back home once a year.  So they store up their love, tuck it in a treasure box, ready to dish it out again every year.

My father has always been the foodie in the house.  It is because of him that I have come to love my grub.  He cooks, does the food shopping and cleans the 3 bed maisonette that they have lived in for the past 26 years.  And he is 80 this year.  An old new man, in my books!

This year, being home again was an extra special treat because in order to support me and my new found writing eating career, he offered to share with me that secret recipe he has guarded for so many years – his special chilli sauce.

It’s no easy job making this spicy potion.  Family legend has it that this is the stuff longevity is made of.  The chilli sauce contains so much antioxidants because of the garlic content that it guarantees an immediate boost in the immune system of anyone who partakes of it.  Daddy has to rise early in order to get the ingredients at the basha (market) near his home.  Anyone who cooks will tell you that  all ingredients used should be fresh.  This is what the equation looks like: early rise = freshest ingredients = yummy spicy potion.  That done, he then has to peel the garlic, de-stalk the chillies, skin the ginger and assemble the blender.


De-stalking  the chillis is no small job: there’s 400 g of chillis to do.  The two types of chillis here are: thai chilli pepper  which is of the African birdseye variety and red chilli pepper.  The smaller the chilli, the stronger the piquancy. Good things come in small packages, kawan kawan and it is no difference with chillis.  If you can’t take too much spiciness, then you can lessen the amount of the Thai chillis and increase that of the larger red ones proportionately.  Here take a look at the Thai chilli pepper:

Hot Chilli Pepper

A lot of lime juice is needed to give the potion its citrus character.  This has to be extracted manually from kalimansi limes found only in Asia.  This lime is known as limau chuit in Malay.  The kalimansi lime is the size of a ping pong ball.  It is yellowish green with a floral lemony scent.  In Europe, you can substitute this with green limes or citron verts or lemon, if you prefer.

Kalimansi limes make very delicious lime juice.  It is best served sweetened and chilled. Kalimansi juice is consumed in large amounts in the Philippines, I was told.

The ginger has to be skinned and cut into blendable pieces.

A piece of blendable ginger

When these ingredients have been prepared, it is time to assemble them into the blender:

Assembly of Chillis

Notice that daddy uses a pair of scissors to cut the bigger chillis into chunks for easier blending.  Then in go the sugar and salt.

Sugar and Salt


The juicy goodness

…..the hand pressed lime juice goes into the blender too.

Give the button a push and see it all being churned up inside.

Listen to the whirring sound

Notice this funky blender, kawan kawan.  It only costs daddy 20 Singapore Dollars.  At 1.70 Sing Dollar to the Euro, this makes the blender….. you can do the math….very cheap, indeed!  I just love the Hermés orange handle, don’t you?

Give the mixture a whir a few more times until the ingredients run smooth.

Smooth rider

This chilli sauce goes very well with Hainanese Chicken Rice, minced meat stir fries, vegetable hot pot and lots more dishes.  I eat it with everything and if I weren’t married to the Italian, I’d even say it would go so well with bolognese sauce….. ooops, don’t say I said that!

Here’s the recipe:

300 g Fresh Large Chillis

100 g Fresh Thai Chillis or Birdseye Chillis

150 g Peeled Fresh garlic

120 g Freshly squeezed lime juice.

80 g Chinese white vinegar

30 g Fresh ginger, cut into small chunks

1 tsp Table salt

2 tblesp White sugar


Cut large chillis into small chunks. Place half the amount of chillis, both Thai and large, into the blender. Add half the amount of garlic and ginger, sugar and salt. Pour in the lime juice and vinegar.  Blend until smooth.  Then finish blending the other half of the ingredients.

There, this recipe is no longer a family secret, thanks to daddy’s generosity.  That is so like my father; he has such a big heart and loves to share.  The more the merrier is his motto.

I did say in my previous post that this recipe grew from daddy’s aghak-aghak method.  But through the years, he has found perfection in precision.  That is also very much my father’s style.  He never stops learning and I am so glad to be the recipient of such a healthy attitude towards life long learning.

I hope you’ll give this a try, kawan kawan.  It is really very delicious.  The recipe makes about 200 ml of Chilli sauce.  This amount lasts me a while since I rely on my yearly summer visits to taste its spicy goodness.

The chilli sauce is best served the next day after it has been refrigerated and it keeps for at least 8 weeks in the fridge.


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