The secret to reducing spiciness in dry chilies is to cut them and soak them in hot water for at least 30 minutes. As a result of the soaking, much of the seeds can be removed easily during the rinsing process. And the chilies will be soft enough to be ground to a fine paste without too much effort.
This basic chili paste is a very useful to have in the freezer if you love spicy gravies and sambals like my family. Everytime we feel like having something spicy for lunch or dinner, a portion of the chili paste is taken out from the freezer and is ready for use almost immediately. And we can have our main dish or side dish ready without the hassle of preparing the chili paste. Believe me, it does take much of the hard work out of cooking by having our own ready-made pastes in the freezer. The same chili paste is also used for adding spiciness to our noodles or fried rice, whenever we need a quick meal. .
This recipe is actually from my mum. She used to use a mortar and pestle to pound the chilies in the earlier days. It was a really time-consuming process but she would not have it any other way. Gradually when she became accustomed to blenders as my sister purchased one for her, she started preparing the pastes with a blender. It was mum's idea to prepare large quantities of pastes and freeze for later use. I guess she began to enjoy having more free time to chat with the neighbours!
Do try this recipe for your spicy gravies. You may adjust the spiciness according to your taste. I usually look for the variety of dry chilies which are less spicy. They are usually the long, wrinkled variety. The shorter, smoother varieties are usually spicier.
Shorter, spicier variety
longer, less spicy variety
1. Cut dry chilies into 2 cm lengths and soak in hot water for a minimum of 30 minutes.
2. Rinse the soaked chilies and discard as much of the seeds as possible to reduce the spiciness.
3. Put the dry chilies, sliced onions, garlic, salt and about 2 cups of water into a blender and grind until the chili paste is really fine, usually taking 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Heat oil in a skillet and pour the chili paste into it. Cook the chili paste for about 20 minutes until the paste is thick. Keep the skillet covered all the time and stir from time-to-time to prevent burning.
5. Allow the chili paste to cool and then pour into a container and freeze immediately. The paste can keep for up to 2 months, if frozen.