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Spicy Sichuan Garlic Relish

May 18, 2011

spicy sichuan relish

The Freds love buying in bulk. And while this is often a time, energy and money saving habit, occasionally it means that we end up with a very large amount of something like dried red chilies. When you’re in the Indian grocery store and you see a giant bag of dried red chiles, and they look so full of promise and you can just imagine them in your pantry, please pause for a moment and ask yourself – how many things do I cook with dried red chilies? The Freds did not ask themselves this and thus have so many chilies that we’ve started looking to make recipes just because they hold the promise of letting us make a dent in our chile stash. So if you live near us, and want to make the following recipe, please drop us a line and we will provide you with dried red chilies to your hearts content. Also, this relish is so damn good, we want to share our chilies with you just so you’ll make it for yourself. Because we aren’t sharing the relish.

dried red hot chilies

As for how to serve the relish, let your imagination be your guide. We like it on crackers, as a garnish for soups, in any stir fry, with braised greens, tossed with steamed vegetables and egg noodles, the list goes on. Basically, we use it whenever something could benefit from a spicy, garlicky infusion. It’s also a great snack for pre-dinner munchies.

garliccutting scallions


This is one of those recipes where mise en place is important – i.e. get all your ingredients ready before you start cooking anything. Once you start frying, you’re going to need to keep a close eye on what you’re doing so as not to burn anything, so you’ll want all your ingredients at arms length.

An easy way to roast sesame seeds is to heat a cast iron skillet until just smoking, turn off the heat and then add your sesame seeds. Spread them in a single layer and stir them often as they darken. When they reach a golden brown, remove them promptly from the heat and set aside.

roasted sesame seeds

Spicy Sichuan Garlic Relish

Makes about one cup

The number of chilies you use will depend on personal preference and the size of your chilies. If the chilies you’re using are 1-2 inches long you will want to use about twenty, if they are 3-4 inches long, you will want to use 15. If you really like spicy food, throw in a few extra, or if you like the idea of heat more than the actual experience of spicy food I would reduce your chilies to about ten.


2/3 cup peanut or canola oil

1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, cut into fine rounds

3/4″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced

Cloves from one head of garlic, minced

1 medium shallot, minced

15-20 dried hot red chilies, coarsely crumbled including seeds

2/3 tsp salt

1 tsp soy sauce

1 ½ Tbs sesame seeds, roasted

½ tsp sesame oil

Heat the oil in a wok, set over medium high heat. When hot, add the scallions and fry, stirring frequently and scrapping the sides and bottom, until the scallions begin to brown. Depending on how hot you’ve gotten your oil this may take between 5 and 10 minutes. Once they begin to brown, add the ginger, garlic and shallot. Fry while stirring another 5-10 minutes until all the ingredients are golden and crisp. You may need to turn the heat down a bit during this time to prevent any of the ingredients from getting too brown. Add the chilies and stir in for 30 seconds, then stir in the salt and soy sauce and cook another minute. Turn off the heat and add the sesame seeds and oil.

Transfer the relish – oil and all – to a glass jar. Let cool, then cover. Can be stored unrefrigerated for several months.

spicy sichuan relish

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2011 10:40 pm

    That looks really, really good. Have you really kept it several months? I love that idea, but the scallions and garlic in it…it seems like it would spoil!

  2. May 19, 2011 10:21 am

    The woman who taught me to make relishes like this one claims to keep hers out for months without refrigerating them, but we keep ours in the fridge because we’re a bit germ paranoid. This does keep for quite a while, though we’ve never kept one for months since we usually eat ours relatively quickly!

  3. Dianna permalink
    May 22, 2011 2:05 am

    I can imagine all kinds of dishes that would benefit from the addition of this relish!! I was expecting Sichuan peppercorns to be in the recipe as well. Hmmm, I wonder if that would add anything to the overall relish. In any case, I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the recipe!!

    • May 23, 2011 8:06 pm

      Hi Dianna,

      You’re welcome! Sichuan peppercorns would be a great addition too. Let us know how it turns out with them added.

  4. FoodGeekGraze permalink
    April 29, 2015 8:33 am

    on crackers?!? speechless here. i totally welcome this kind of crazy. love love love the lead. thank you 🙂


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