- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 4 large shallots, very thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 dried hot red chile
- 3 star anise pods
- One 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup Asian fish sauce
- In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of water and bring to a boil. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Boil undisturbed over moderately low heat until a deep amber caramel forms, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the shallots, chile, star anise, cinnamon and pepper. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully whisk in the fish sauce and 1/4 cup of water. Stir over moderate heat until the caramel is dissolved. Pour the sauce into a heatproof bowl and let cool completely. Remove the chile, star anise and cinnamon stick. Use immediately or refrigerate.
The caramel can be refrigerated in a lightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks.