Try this Tibetan hot chilli dip (sepen) recipe from recipe author Julie Kleeman. This recipe comes from Taste Tibet: Family Recipes from the Himalayas by Julie Kleeman with Yeshi Jampa (£25, Murdoch Books).

Recipe author Julie Kleeman says: "This fiery dip can be used as the basis of many different chilli sauces, and is the perfect accompaniment to most Tibetan dishes. Because it’s a fairly dry mixture you can store it in the fridge for many months."

This is a recipe that Julie shared as part of her guide to Tibetan cuisine. Check it out to learn about complex flavours of this Himalayan region, including Tibetan pasties and Tibetan dresil ceremonial rice.


  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ginger, washed but not peeled, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds or ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 170ml sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
  • 50g hot chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil


  • STEP 1

    In a blender or small food processor, blend together the garlic, ginger, peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, and 1 tsp of salt to a rough paste, adding a tbsp of water to help everything move a bit more easily.

  • STEP 2

    Put 1 tbsp of the oil into a frying pan over a medium heat. When it is hot, add the mixture to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure nothing burns. Add the chilli and mix everything through, then turn off the heat and set aside to let the flavours mellow a little.

  • STEP 3

    Meanwhile, heat 150ml of the oil in a pan until it is very hot (test it by dropping in a tiny amount of the mixture – if it’s hot enough, it will sizzle). Put the frying pan back over a low heat and carefully pour the hot oil into the pan. Stir briskly for 4-5 minutes – keep a close eye on it and take it off the heat immediately if it starts to burn. As soon as the chilli darkens to a rich reddish-brown, it is ready. Quickly decant the sepen into a serving bowl and keep stirring for a further minute, then add the sesame oil and stir it through. Allow it to cool a little before serving.


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