Vietnamese Chile Sauce (Tuong Ot)

1 large clove garlic
1 medium (3 to 4 ounc) Roma tomato
6 ounces Fresno or other kinds of moderately-hot chiles
Brimming 1?2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar, preferably organic
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1?2 cup water, plus more as needed

Coarsely chop the garlic and tomato. Transfer to a 11?2-quart (1.5 l) saucepan, including the tomato juices and seeds.

Stem and quarter the chiles lengthwise. Because you want a moderate amount of heat, seed half of the chile pieces, reserving those unwanted parts in case the chiles are wimpy.
With the skin side facing up, coarsely cut all of the chiles crosswise into pieces the size of your thumbnail. Use one of the leftover stem pieces and your knife to usher them into the pan.

Add the salt, sugar, vinegar, and water. Bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chiles have softened. Taste midway. If it’s too mild, add some of the reserved chile seeds and spongy placenta to the pan.

When done, slide to a cool burner, let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, then puree in a blender. Expect skin bits and seeds to remain.
Pass through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the mixture with a spatula; discard the solids.

Allow to cool and concentrate, uncovered, for about 1 hour before tasting and tweaking.

If needed, add salt by the pinch, sugar by the 1?4 teaspoon, vinegar by the 1?2 teaspoon, or water by the tablespoon.

Notes:
Texturally, the sauce should resemble a pourable sriracha. The flavor should be pleasantly sweet and spicy. You will want to eat the chile sauce by the spoonful but know that you should not.

Organic cane sugar perfectly balances and brightens the chile heat without being cloying. As an experiment, substitute 1/2 ounce yellow Chinese rock sugar, which you may already have for preparing pho broth. If the chile sauce has too many rough edges, round them out with a touch of maple syrup. If refined sugar isn’t for you, substitute 2 tablespoons of maple syrup for the sugar below.

When Fresno chiles aren’t available, or if they’re just not very hot, try red or green jalapeño. Consider combining different kinds of chiles, too.

Keep refrigerated for up to 3 months. Enjoy at room temperature.

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