Recipe: Fiery Ginger & Spring Onion Sauce
Earlier this year I served this dipping sauce at a lunch and it was the unexpected star of the show. A few people asked me for the recipe, so here it is. The sauce is a ginger and spring onion (or scallion) relish with my own twist. The classic version is the mandatory — some might say defining — component of the famous Hainanese chicken rice dish. If you are familiar with this chicken dish, you will know this sauce. It’s a pairing that makes sense as soon as you tuck in because the slightly bland, understated poached chicken is the perfect vehicle for the fiery kick of this sauce.
I really can’t think of any other dish that involves this amount of ginger and raw onion, yet tastes so good. I used to ask my mum to cook Hainanese chicken just so I could eat this sauce! I never thought about just making it as a standalone relish until I turned vegetarian.
The magic of the sauce is that it’s so simple to make. The key is, as Francis Lam says, to
“salt the ginger and scallions like they called your mother a bad name and stir it well.”
It should definitely be slightly too salty. Lam’s recipe heats the oil to pour over the ginger and spring onions, but I prefer not to heat it, using a high quality cold pressed oil instead so it’s like a Chinese pesto. You can substitute the olive oil with something of a similar quality, though I would not choose something that has an overpowering flavour.
The final twist — which made it such a hit with my lunch guests — was the small green chillies that I added. Normally the fire comes from the raw ginger but it’s not meant to be a spicy relish per se. With the added chillies, this sauce is another level. Leave it in the fridge and it will get better over the course of the week — that is, if it lasts that long…
Let me know if you try this recipe and share your results on Instagram with #CelestialPeach.
Bunch of spring onions (3 large, or 4–5 small)
~75g fresh ginger, peeled
3-4 spicy green chillies, medium sized
2 tsp salt
Plenty of high quality, cold pressed olive oil
Roughly chop the spring onions, ginger and chillies and place in a food processor. Pulse until finely minced but not until a mushy pulp. Alternatively, if your chopping skills are up to scratch, you can mince the ingredients by hand with a knife.
Add salt and put the mixture in a bowl or container. Pour the oil over and mix well.
Allow the relish to steep for a few hours before serving. Store in the fridge; it will keep for at least a week and the flavour will get more intense with time.