We were sitting in an Asian restaurant here in Columbia. Andy ordered some kind of stir fried concoction with a sauce I’d never heard of and some kind of animal that still had its legs attached and I probably ordered the most basic thing on the menu. We had just started dating and I wasn’t exactly in tune with my Asian food-side yet (I say yet because now I love Asian food). I’m still, however, at a standoff with seafood. That junk is gross. Imagine. A foodie hating seafood. Just imagine it.
Anyhow, we were in the restaurant. The waitress brought the food and Andy let out an immediate, “Oh, can I get some red chili paste to go with this?” and she scurried back to the kitchen and came back with a small bowl which she placed on the table. I stared at it like it was a bowl of beaming sunlight that I’d never experienced. Its bright, intensely contrasty red color had me fixated. It was beautiful. But I knew it was hot. Nothing with such a deep, flaming color can be mild. And my suspicions were confirmed when Andy barely dipped the end of his chopsticks into the bowl and stirred the attached paste into his meat and veggies. Hot it may be. Foul it is not.
Chili paste like this gives your food a very powerful heat, but it doesn’t give your food an unwelcomed flavor like other hot sauces can. A little goes a long way and it bumps up the flavor (and heat) profile of stir fries, soups, sauces, and whatever else your heart desires. Heck, spread it straight on a cracker if you’ve got the guts to do so.
Note: Do not, I repeat, do not put your face down in the blender and take a big whiff to see how the chili paste is coming along. You may experience a bomb-like experience in your eyes and lungs. Some of us around here know from experience.
garlic chili paste
total time: 5 minutes yield: 1/3 cup
1 cup chile peppers (I used cayenne)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp unrefined cane sugar
4 tbsp water
splash of sesame oil
Trim the stems from the chile peppers. Place the peppers in a blender or food processor along with the garlic, salt, sugar, and water. Blend until coarsely chopped. Add the sesame oil and blend until a paste is formed. Store chilled in an airtight container.
You can use a combination of different types of peppers if you’d like. Feel free to change up the amount of water and/or oil to achieve your desired consistency.