I am always conscious that my guests will have different chilli tolerance levels. So I never make my Sri Lankan dishes ‘hot’, that is, with a lot of strong chilli. Instead, I have a chilli paste that I keep in a jar in the fridge and I put it out in a small dish like a sambol for guests to add some onto the side of their plate and integrate it with what they are eating as they see fit.

Chilli Paste

A handy way to add spiced chilli flavour to your cooking or as a sambol with the main meal
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Keyword chilli, paste
Prep Time 30 minutes


  • 350 gms fresh red chillies
  • 15 gms garlic
  • 2 tbsp cumin seed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 ml vinegar


  • Chop the stems off 350 gms fresh red chillies.
  • Chop 15 gms garlic fine.
  • Grind together 2 tbsp cumin seeds, 15 gms of chopped garlic, 1 tsp salt, a splash of vinegar, You can use a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or coffee bean grinder.
  • Put the 350 gms red chillies, the cumin/garlic/salt paste, 100 ml of vinegar into a blender.
  • Blend this till you have a paste that still has small flakes of chilli in it. You can keep blending it till all the chilli is thoroughly nixed if you like, but I think it looks better when serving this as a sambol to have some flakes showing.