Hot Chile Oil Paste (Tsu la-tse)

I first tasted this condiment at the Saturday market in Kalimpong, a town near the Bhutan—Sikkim border, as a red chile paste coating hard-cooked eggs. Each egg was wrapped in a green leaf, a beautiful presentation. The combination of egg and sauce was delicious, for the sauce had a surprising depth of flavor. I had expected just chile heat, but found out when I tasted the egg I’d bought that the chile oil paste was flavored with ginger, scallions, and garlic. We don’t eat many hard-cooked eggs in our house, but we do make this paste, called tsu la-tse, quite often. We serve it as a condiment to add a little heat and flavor to soups, rice meals, and grills of all kinds. It keeps well in the refrigerator.


  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • ¾ cup stemmed dried red chiles
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup minced scallions
  • ½ cup peanut oil


  1. Place the ginger, garlic, chiles, and salt in a food processor or minichopper.
  2. Process or chop to a paste; the chile seeds will be spattered up the sides of the bowl.
  3. Sometimes grinding dried chiles can put a lot of chile dust in the air, so take care not to breathe in too deeply when you remove the processor lid.
  4. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and stir in the minced scallions.
  5. Set aside.
  6. Heat the oil in a small heavy skillet until almost smoking.
  7. Pour it into the bowl of chopped ingredients and stir to blend thoroughly.
  8. Let it cool a little, then transfer it to a glass jar with a good lid.
  9. Once cooled, store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 month

Notes: We like to set this out as a condiment for those who want to add a dose of chile heat and to add sparkle to mild-tasting dishes such as Coconut-Rice Soup (page 89). It’s also a treat with Darjeeling Market Tibetan Breads (page 136).


The coconut milk sauce makes this a good dish to pair with rice, Sri Lankan or another, and a simple grill such as Grilled Marinated Beef (page 272) or Bangla-Flavored Grilled Zucchini (page 144). For extra heat, put out Red Onion Sambol (page 32) or Fresh Bean Sprout Salad (page 55).


Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent


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Hot Chile Oil Paste (Tsu la-tse)