Thai Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce is very easy and lasts forever in the fridge. It is a necessity for spring rolls, and delicious on grilled chicken, pad Thai, fried rice, and a host of other dishes as well. My house is never without it! This recipe was first posted in April 2008–before I had even learned to not use a flash (egads!). So in December 2012 I updated the pictures of the sauce, but have left the pictures of the dish.
Has your life ever gotten so far away from you that no matter what you get done, 8 billion things fall into line, waiting to be done? That is how I feel right now. We spent the day cleaning under the couch (always a scary proposition, especially when you have German Shepherd hair to contend with) and straightening up the kitchen repeatedly—which is a mess still from dinner, despite all the work that was done earlier. My kitchen is too small and poorly organized (I can hardly wait to move!) and this last month has been so ridiculous with being sick and out of town so much I feel like I lost all of my organizational skills for dealing with it.
But enough griping….
Thai Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce, or Nahm Jeem Gratien, is a classic Thai sauce that many of you have probably seen served as a dipping sauce for Thai spring rolls. Its uses are many and varied beyond that though, as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken, a dipping sauce for vegetables, and here in the States I would argue it is a great shortcut for making various Thai dishes, such as Sweet and Sour (featured here) and Pad Thai. I always have a bottle of it in my fridge–and it lasts forever.
I wrote this recipe for Thai Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce from memory I have made it so many times. I originally made the recipe from Nancie McDermott’s Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking. It has been so long since I checked the recipe I am not sure if it has been adapted much or not–as you can see it is a pretty simple formula. Regarding the chile pepper flakes, do notice that there is a lot of sugar and vinegar off-setting their heat. So definitely add at least one tablespoon, preferably more. Likewise, I also originally started making Sweet and Sour Stir Fry from McDermott’s recipe, although I then also learned to make that dish in Chiang Mai at a cooking class.
- 1 head of garlic, minced
- Red chile pepper flakes, to taste (I used Pakastani ones from Penzey’s, i.e., the hottest ones, and I throw in 1-2 tablespoons, whereas my sister would throw in maybe ¼ cup)
- 1 cup white vinegar (cider vinegar will work as well)
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 t salt
- Bring the ingredients to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan. Lower the heat to a simmer, and leave the mixture simmering for at least 15 minutes, as long as 30 minutes. Although it will thicken and reduce considerably, the thickening will not be evident until it has cooled, so take it off the heat after 30 minutes even if it still seems a bit thin.
- Store in a sealed jar in the fridge. I have had mine last for months (I make a much larger quantity than above). Shake gently before using as the garlic and chile pepper flakes will settle.
- 1-3 T of neutral oil (depending on pan and to taste—will be easier of course with more oil)
- 5 scallions, roughly chopped, white and green parts separated (the Thai would leave the white parts longer but I like them a bit smaller)
- 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
- Mushrooms, quartered if small to medium, “sixthed” if larger (crimini, button, straw or shitake are all fine)
- 1 sweet bell pepper, sliced and then chopped in half
- Shredded chicken from rotisserie chicken
- Carrots sliced into medallions
- Broccoli florets (I use frozen and add near to the end)
- ½ pineapple, chopped (or one can, stored in juice, is fine too)
- Hothouse cucumber, peeled and seeded and sliced into half medallions (or use baby cukes, in which case do not bother peeling or seeding)
- Grape tomatoes or tomato wedges
- 1½ T Fish sauce
- 1 T Oyster sauce
- 1 T Ketchup
- 2-3 T Thai Sweet Hot Garlic Dipping Sauce
- Heat a large skillet to high and add the oil when hot. There is not much to this dish, other than this very simple rule of thumb, familiar to anyone who has ever made Asian stir fries: have ALL items ready and waiting before you start and add the longest to cook items first and the least time ones last. For my list above I would add: garlic (toast the garlic for 15-30 seconds first to flavor the whole dish), scallion whites and carrots and stir fry for a minute. Then add add mushrooms and bell peppers and stir fry for one minute. Then add broccoli and pineapple and stir fry for one minute.
- Then add the shredded chicken as well as the condiments, starting with lesser amounts.
- Taste for more of the Thai Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce as well as more fish sauce.
- Last, add the scallion greens, cucumber and tomatoes. Remove from the heat. Fragile, easily overcooked items such as cucumber and fresh tomatoes should be added after you have the sauce to taste as you don’t want to risk overcooking them while you fiddle with the sauce, getting the flavor right.
- Serve with jasmine rice.
In answer to your initial question… YES!!!! I feel like I have a constant to-do list that I never make any progress on. I don’t know how I ever did it when I worked full time. Kudos to all the supermoms.
The sauce sounds great. But I tend to order my Thai food on the really mild side… so do you think this would be too hot for me? Hot frightens me and sends me into ultra sweat-mode!
recipegirl: I absolutely think you should still make it, but you could try using a milder chile pepper flake (for example, the Penzey’s California ones) and you could reduce the peppers to 1-2 teaspoons or even start lower and taste as you go. Remember that you will probably never eat any dish that uses only this sauce as its sauce–so the heat of it will normally be cut by other ingredients. Even my eldest, who is a heat-phobe, likes this sauce as long as she doesn’t get a big bite of it.
And yeah, I don’t know how the working moms do it either. Heck I don’t know how the working pregnant ladies do it! I thought I was going to die while working my first pregnancy!
Wow… under the couch cleaning…
Lori – I am obsessed with hot and spicy foods, and this dish is not to be feared. I would add a ton of extra hot pepper flakes for me 🙂 I believe our mom has eaten Laura’s version of this dish several times with no problems. And she is the biggest heat wuss on the face of the planet 🙂
Pretty pictures by the way!
oh, yeah, josie, i am not.
i do love this sauce, but i would use mild flakes if i made it.
Kitchen Queen Victoria says
Great sauce recipe! I shall buy the same hot peppers you use when I go to Penzey’s later this week and mix up a batch for spring rolls over the weekend. YUM! Thanks for posting.
Laura @MotherWouldKnow says
I love this sauce. Tried making it once (can’t remember what recipe I used, but it just wasn’t right. I trust your version and can’t wait to make it next time we do Thai food. I might cut the recipe down – this version makes a lot. But on the other hand, it probably lasts close to forever in the refrigerator, so I could just start making a bunch of Thai food and eat it all over the course of a month or so.
It lasts MONTHS in the fridge. I always make a lot. Like a lot more than this recipe lol!