My Thai: Thai Dried Chili Dipping Sauce (Jaew)

Leela Punyaratabandhu

Now that we've learned how to grill a steak, let's add a dipping sauce to our summer cookout repertoire. This regional Thai dipping sauce (Jaew or, officially, Jaeo) is not as well-known throughout the world as its sweeter, milder friend—Thai sweet chili sauce—but to ignore it is to leave a gaping hole of pain in the hearts of grilled meat lovers.

We're not specifying what types of grilled (or pan-fried) meat are best served with this dipping sauce; there are too many to list. But a general rule is to not smother the meat in other sauces that threaten to diminish the role of this clean, crisp, smoky sauce. In other words, chicken that has been marinated simply in salt and honey or brown sugar will fare better with this dip than grilled chicken covered with American-style barbecue sauce.


Two necessary and irreplaceable ingredients that need to be prepared before you begin making this sauce are dried chili powder and toasted-rice powder. To make the former, simply grind some dried red bird's eye chilies (or Italian-style dried red pepper flakes in a pinch) in a mortar or coffee grinder until you get a powder with the texture of coarsely cracked pepper. To make the latter, follow these instructions on how to make toasted-rice powder for Thai cooking.

Once you have these two components on hand, it shouldn't take more than 5 minutes to whip up this dipping sauce.