Chile Garlic Sauce (Nga Yoke Thee Achin)
1 cup tightly packed dried red chilies (just about any kind will work)
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup rice vinegar (or substitute cider vinegar)
Wearing gloves and being mindful not to touch your eyes, break the chilies in half, break off the stems, and rid the chilies of some or all of the seeds. Place the Chile pieces in a small pot with the water. If your garlic is somewhat dried out and harsh tasting, add it now too. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chilies are softened and have swelled up a little. If your garlic is young and fresh, add it for the last minute of cooking. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Carefully combine the chilies, garlic, their cooking liquid, the fish sauce, and the sugar in a food processor, and process or grind to a coarse paste; scrape down the sides of the processor bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. Add the vinegar and process again. The sauce may seem sort of watery but thatís okay.
Transfer the sauce to a clean, dry glass jar and store in the refrigerator, preferably for at least a day before using and up to several weeks. (When you make the sauce, it will seem watery, but letting it settle for a day gives it time to thicken. It also allows the flavors to meld nicely.)
Makes about 1 3/4 cups