Sunday, July 19, 2015

Not quite the same, Sepen - Tibetan Hot Sauce

In one of the food discussions, in a group, on facebook, someone suggested the Sepen, a very hot Tibetan sauce. It is interesting to know that while Tibetan cuisine is mild in spices and it is very common that the Tibetans partake many of their dishes with a generous dollop of hot sauces. The sauce counters the otherwise nearly bland taste. In the comments thread under the same discussion, someone also shared two links to recipes. They got me hooked to try the sauce.
Both of the recipes were similar because one was adapted from the same author as the other. One used just chillis and Sichuan / Szechuan Peppercorn while the other had tomatoes and celery added. Now I was in a fix as neither did I find the right peppercorn nor the celery. I decided it was to try my own take on the recipe with tomatoes, chillis and the mighty black pepper. Thus the emerging dish was not authenic sepen, just quite near imitation of the original. However, the taste of the sauce and colour were really good. That is reason enough to share a recipe, isn't it?

Tibetan Hot Sauce -Sepen

(Adapted from NYTimes 
Experience the joys of Tibet culture

Makes 250 millilitres medium thick textured sauce
8 medium size tomatoes
3-4 dry red chillis
5 fresh green chillis
1/2 tablespoon black pepper corn crushed coarsely
7 pods of garlic crushed
1" piece ginger chopped very fine
2 table spoons oil
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons fresh coriander chopped (optional)/ few leaves for garnish

Wash the tomatoes clean and drop them in very hot water for a minute.
Remove the peel, cool and puree in a blender.

Grind both the chillis together to a coarse paste. Let the seeds of the chillis remain whole. Add to this, the crushed garlic, peppercorns and the ginger.
Heat oil in a heavy pan. Add the combined paste and saute'  for a few minutes on low heat to remove the raw taste.
Add the pureed tomatoes adjusting the water and the salt. Bring to one boil and simmer for 30 minutes, very slowly so the flavours come out strong.
Continue to simmer to achieve desired thickness of sauce.

Just before removing from the heat, add chopped coriander.

Remove from heat. Allow to cool and transfer to storing jar.
This sauce can stay outside of refrigeration up to three days and in the fridge for about ten days if stored well.

As is evident from the above picture, my sauce was not very thick while it was neither of runny texture. I cooked it to this level of thickness as I was cooking noodles with the sauce later.
Serve small portions of the very hot sauce with milder dish like momos and noodles and to dunk other stuffed breads in.
We relished this with steamed rice noodles.


  1. Looks nice and spicy. Sometimes it is necessary to keep the consistency of a sauce thinner to suit our palate and dish. Just like we would a chutney !

    It would as you say, be a great accompaniment to momos.

  2. Loved the recipe
    Latha. Well shot and looks fiery.


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