This Vietnamese Lemongrass and Chilli Oil is another favourite spicy condiment in our home. The lemongrass is the star of this show and adds an irresistible zing to every mouthful!
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Vietnamese Lemongrass and Chilli Oil
There is so much I love about this chilli oil, or chilli crisp as these things are called in the US. It’s a table condiment in many eateries in Vietnam, especially if the place specialises in noodles.
You’ll find today’s recipe also called Ớt Sa Tế, which really just means chilli paste in Vietnamese. And so, you can imagine there are many variations of this chilli paste or chilli oil, plus or minus other ingredients. They are all Ớt Sa Tế!
But I’m doing one with lemongrass added to it.
Lemongrass and Chilli Oil Recipe
I posted a reel of me stirring this Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli oil on Instagram a couple of days ago and had so many questions about it.
Mostly, everyone wanted the recipe! So here we go!
It’s the simplest thing ever, really. All we do is:
- Chop up all the aromatics (lemongrass, fresh chillies, garlic and shallots.
- Fry these aromatics for 10 minutes.
- Add chilli flakes and seasoning, cook another 5 minutes.
- Cool and bottle up your lemongrass and chilli oil.
All the ingredients we use are easy to find ones. Let’s take a quick look.
So the lemongrass is no bit player in this. In fact, quite the opposite.
Ideally, you want to use fresh lemongrass. Here in the UK, that is not a problem as it’s a common ingredient in all our large supermarkets and many grocers, sitting next to the onion, garlic and ginger. You only use the bottom few inches of a lemongrass. Check out my 5-minute video on YouTube, on how to use lemongrass, if you’re not sure.
Can’t get fresh, next best thing would be the frozen kind that you will find in East and South East Asian stores. This is why I’ve given you the weight in the recipe below, to give you an idea of how much to use, if you don’t have stalks. These can be whole stalks or sliced/chopped. Just defrost and use.
And if you can’t get those, then lemongrass paste or powder sold in jars will do. About 2 Tbsp of the paste and 1 Tbsp of the powder will work with the recipe below, depending on their strengths. You can always add more after tasting.
Dried lemongrass? I wouldn’t even bother with. They tend to smell and taste of paper!
We use 2 different kinds: fresh red chillies and red chilli flakes.
I’ve given you number of chillies, as well as the weight. You can reduce this or increase it accordingly. And if you don’t actually want any heat or perhaps, just a hint, then use a red bell pepper instead of red chillies.
The red chilli flakes are just regular ones, don’t use the smoked type.
Shallots and Garlic
If you don’t have shallots at hand, a regular onion will do, white or red.
If you are not so keen on that much garlic, you can also reduce the amount. But I can tell you that it’s not at all overpowering, it’s a nice balance.
We use a flavourless oil in this, so your standard vegetable oil or peanut oil will work. Now, the amount of oil you use is up to you.
The recipe says it’s a chilli oil. However, if you take a look at the image, it’s fairly dry. That’s because I’m using “only” 250 ml/1 cup of oil. If you want it to have a “proper” chilli oil consistency, increase the amount of oil you use to 2 cups or 1 1/2 cups.
Whether you use salt or fish sauce, it’s up to you. Fish sauce lends am umami depth to this chilli crisp. However, using salt gives you a vegan lemongrass and chilli oil, if that’s what you prefer.
The amount of sugar here rounds up the flavour of this recipe, it doesn’t make it particularly less hot, not sweet.
How to Use this Lemongrass and Chilli Oil?
This was the other question that everyone asked.
I treat it like a sambal and a chilli paste. In other words, both as condiment and a cooking ingredient. But it also makes a great topping for canapés and finger foods, like devilled eggs and little Spanish Tortilla squares, for example.
One of my favourite lazy lunches is spiced sandwiches. So I start with 2 slices of buttered bread, then a layer of this lemongrass and chilli oil. The sandwich is then filled with an omelette and slices of cucumber and tomatoes. And sometimes cheese. Simply awesome!
As a condiment, you can top noodles with it, have it on the side with rice or use it as a topping as mentioned above. It takes the sunny side up egg to the next level.
It rocks as part of a salad dressing too!
This lemongrass and chilli oil makes its presence known when you use it as a cooking ingredient. Use it in stir fries as well as in marinades for barbecues and roasts.
And that’s about it. Shall we get our aprons on?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor and hashtag it #linsfood.
More Spicy Recipes
Vietnamese Lemongrass and Chilli Oil (aka Chilli Crisp)
- 1 Knife
- 1 Chopping board
- 1 food chopper or processor
- 1 saucepan
- 1 ladle/spatula
- 1 spoon
- 2 jars for storage (about 250ml/1 cup capacity, give or take)
- 12 stalks lemongrass (weight after chopping = 120g/4.2 oz)
- 10 long red chillies (rough weight 200g/7 oz)
- 2 medium bulbs garlic (peeled weight about 80g/2.8 oz)
- 4 medium shallots (weight: prepeeled 150g/1.8 oz, peeled 120g/4.2 oz)
- 250 ml vegetable or peanut oil
- 15 g red chilli flakes (this is about ¼ cup)
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce OR 1-2 tsp salt (start with 1 tsp)
- vegetable or peanut oil to for sealing
- We are going to chop everything coarsely in a food processor/chopper. If yours isn't big enough, do it in batches.Top and tail your lemongrass, slice into rings, and drop into the chopper. Read more on how to do that here.Chop your chillies in 2-3 pieces and drop into the chopper.Peel the garlic and add to chopper.Peel the shallots and add to chopper.Chop everything to a coarse grind.
Let's Cook the Ớt Sa Tế
- Heat the oil in a wok or a saucepan on medium heat. When it's hot enough, add the the chopped aromatics. Reduce the heat to medium-low after 1 minute and cook for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Add the sugar, fish sauce (or salt) and chilli flakes and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Check seasoning and add more salt or sugar if necessary. Take it off the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Transfer to sterilised jars, top with a layer of vegetable oil and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.