Merry Christmas Chilli Sauce

Merry Christmas one and all! I hope you’ve all managed to have fun despite the ice storms, floods and smog clouds that have afflicted various parts of the world in the last week. Here in Hong Kong, far away from merest hint of an ice storm, it finally got cold enough (around 15°C, for reference) to think about making and eating momos…

Momos and Sepen © Jo James

Momos and Sepen © Jo James

Momos are stodgy dumplings that are served all over Tibet and Nepal for breakfast and lunch. Often they’re filled with rather gristly yak meat, but occasionally you might hit pay-dirt and find a delicious mashed potato and cheese filling inside instead. This soft, bland stuffing makes these little dumplings the perfect foil for sepen, a Tibetan chilli sauce made from dried chillies and vegetables.

My cheese-and-potato momo recipe is still in the works, but for your eating pleasure (and for spicing up all those leftovers), here is a recipe for {drumroll} Merry Christmas Chilli Sauce a.k.a. sepen!

© Jo James

© Jo James

Sepen (Tibetan Chilli Sauce)
4 cloves of garlic
1 onion
2 stalks celery
2 tomatoes
2 spring onions/scallions
1 handful fresh coriander/cilantro
1 cup whole dried chilli peppers (if you’re British and don’t have measuring cups, then a teacup ought to do the trick here)
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp vinegar
vegetable oil

Makes 500g or 1lb

1) Mince the garlic, slice the onions and roughly chop the celery. Everything will go in the blender eventually, so don’t worry about precision.

2) Heat a wok over a medium-high heat, and swirl some oil into the pan. Once both pan and oil are hot, fry the garlic briefly – until it smells good – and then add the onions, celery and dried chillies. Turn the heat down to medium while you prepare the other ingredients, stirring occasionally.

3) Slice the tomatoes and roughly chop the spring onions and coriander. Add the tomatoes and the greens to the pan and stir well. Sprinkle the salt over everything and cover, cooking for 3-5 minutes without removing the lid.

4) Remove the pan from the heat, add the vinegar and stir. Then – taking great care not to send scalding chilli sauce flying about your kitchen – blend everything together using a food processor or blender. You still want a bit of texture, but do make sure that any big bits of chilli have been chopped up well.

5) Allow to cool to room temperature and taste, then add to whatever takes your fancy…

See you in 2014!

P.S. This recipe is based on one from, which is full of fun information about Tibetan culture and food…

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