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Recipes From Our Mums: ST Food Editor Tan Hsueh Yun and mum Joyce Lim

Published on May 7, 2013 8:15 PM

Raising a chilli coward must have been really appalling for my poor mother, Madam Joyce Lim, 73, who loves spicy food. But here I am, breaking out in sweat when I tuck into anything with chilli in it, gulping cold milk or yogurt when the heat gets too much.

Still, my mother’s chilli dip is something I cannot do without every year at Reunion dinner, when we have steamboat.

Made with fiery bird’s eye chillies and an intense red, the tangy dip is perfect with fishballs, chicken, prawns and even slices of abalone that we dunk in her homemade chicken stock.

I like having a jar of it in the fridge; to spice up a bowl of instant noodles, to add a little to pasta sauce (she would be mortified if she knew), or to use in place of lacklustre takeaway chicken rice chilli.

Squeezing all those limes takes effort and getting teary eyed from chilli fumes is not funny. But I love it, so she makes it and I love her for it.

Chilli Dip from Madam Joyce Lim


200g bird’s eye chillies
7 large chillies, about 100g
800g calamansi limes
100g garlic cloves
100g young ginger
sugar and salt to taste

1. Place the bird’s eye and large chillies in a colander, rinse under running water. Let them drip dry while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. Place a strainer over a glass bowl or pouring jug, slice the limes in half and squeeze out the juice over the strainer to catch the seeds.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and chop roughly.
4. Peel the young ginger and slice.
5. Pat dry the chillies with paper towels, be sure they are absolutely dry. Slice the green stems off the chillies. Slice the large chillies, leave the bird’s eye chillies whole.
6. Add chillies, garlic and ginger into a grinder or food processor, process until fine. You will have to stop the machine and scrape down the sides at least once.
7. Scoop chilli mixture into a large bowl, add lime juice, stir to mix well. Add sugar and salt to taste.
8. Spoon the chilli into clean glass jars, cover and refrigerate. Use within three weeks.