Monday, 10 December 2012

Dill Chicken Dipping Sauce

Flicking through Cooking Apicius I spotted the rather tastily-titled 'Chicken in Sweet and Sour Sauce'.  I wanted to know how similar this tastes to Sweet and Sour Chicken as we know it today, so decided that this would be our next recipe.  Hopping over to my translation of Apicius, I soon learned that the 'Sweet and Sour' was added by Grainger, and that the recipe is actually called 'Raw Sauce for Boiled Chicken'.  Suddenly, our exotic sounding dinner sounds a lot less appetising.  Let's see if the ancient recipe can fix that:

In a mortar put some dill seed, dry mint, and asafoetida.  Add vinegar, fig wine, fish sauce, some mustard, oil, and grape must.  Serve.  Also called 'dill chicken'. - Apicius, 6.8.1

'Dill Chicken' - that's something we can work with, so that's what we're making.  This recipe is essentially a two-parter.  For now, we're making the sauce, which can be used for dipping meat into.  Later (in a matter of a few hours), we'll be cooking some chicken in the sauce.  I have decided to break with tradition a little bit and use fresh dill weed, rather than the seed.  I currently have lots of fresh dill weed which needs using, and no dill seed, so the decision is based partly around that. Dill also happens to be a flavour I love, and if the dish is called 'Dill Chicken', it's dill I want to taste.  I've also gone for fresh mint rather than dried mint for similar reasons.  I will come back to this recipe with the proper ingredients in the future, just to see how much of a difference it makes, but for now, we shall start.

Dill Chicken Dipping Sauce


  • Handful Fresh Dill Weed
  • Handful Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Asafoetida
  • 1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Date Paste
  • 1 tbsp Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 tbsp Caroenum or 1 tbsp Balsamic Glaze


  • Wash the dill and mint leaves, add to the mortar, and pound away at them until they become a paste.
  • Add the asafoetida and mix it in.
  • Add all of the various sauces, syrups, and liquids.  Mix the whole lot up.
  • Leave the sauce in the mortar, and serve with cold cuts of meat for dipping.
  • Enjoy!


  • As mentioned before, I've gone for fresh dill weed and fresh mint leaves rather than dill seed and dried mint.
  • You can use balsamic glaze as a substitute for caroenum.
  • If you don't have date paste, try a bit of honey for sweetness instead.


If ever you wanted the taste of ancient Rome in a quick and easy to make sauce, this is it.  The sauce took just five minutes to make, and the results are spectacular.  Because of the dill and mint, the sauce clings very well to meat, making it great for dipping.  I also believe that this sauce proves, without a doubt, that the Romans didn't overseason food into anonymity.  Chicken dipped, and a bite taken, you immediately feel the tang of the vinegar and taste the sweetness of the date syrup and balsamic.  The flavour then evolves as the savoury of the fish sauce comes through.  The experience is made complete by the lingering delicate flavour of dill.  This isn't overseasoned, but rather it is the perfect balance of flavours, each working with the next.  It is, like all the Roman food I've tried so far, a journey of taste - you start off with one taste, and finish with another.  I cannot wait to see what this sauce is like when cooked with chicken!


  1. Okay, made this yesterday, served it tonight.

    When I was done making it, my first sniff was followed by the immediate thought, "Salad dressing." We can blame the vinegar for that. However, after having spent the day cooking Roman, the last thing I wanted to do was eat it, so we had pizza and I put everything away.
    But not before the wife and I tasted the spelt bread with the dill sauce and I was amazed she said she liked it. She's not a big vinegar fan. So, Roman on Sunday was a go.

    I made herbed barley with pancetta from The Philosopher's Kitchen by F Segan (highly recommended cook, and recipe), chicken piccata (which goes amazing well with the lemon sauce of the piccata) plus the bread and dill sauce. Now, having cleaned up, I'm frantically wondering who I can invite over to share this amazing meal with!! I want to get a rotisserie chicken to serve the sauce on!!

    We discussed the sauce as we ate, saying it has a very dill top note, is spicy warm from the mustard (I used dry, did you?), the date paste gives it an impressive complexity and last of all, a fishy aftertaste! Sharp, pungent, verdant, were all used to describe it, but the bottom line is, I can't recommend it enough.

    Thanks again for a fantastic meal, and an even better blog!


    1. Thank you so much for letting me know how it went for you! Dill sauce really does seem to be the big favourite here. I really like how you analysed the flavours too - you summed it up better than I ever could.