A terrible thing happened the other day: I ran out of Lan Chi Chile Garlic Paste. I scoured the streets of Chinatown looking for a replacement jar – I even hit the Korean Markets with hopes that they would have an errant Chinese product. No luck.
I didn’t realize the level of distress this would cause until I set out to make spicy mayo for sushi. I substituted Rooster brand chili garlic sauce. The labels are almost identical: chili, garlic, oil, salt (though the Rooster brand does have a bit of vinegar). But the flavors are miles apart. My need for Lan Chi reached fever pitch.
Finally, I found a supply at the Whole Foods. Of course, it was almost triple the price of what I would find in Chinatown. The price difference only amounted to $2, so I decided to let go of my principals and chalk it up to convenience and time saved hunting.
Yesterday, as I made my own hot-sauce, I pondered how three simple ingredients could taste so different. Much of this depends on the variety of chilies and how they are treated.
Knowing that each variety of chile has a different type and intensity of heat, I bought 4 different varieties: Serrano, Fresno, Jalapeno and Anaheim. To add sweetness, depth (and mellow the heat a bit), I added an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a sweet red bell pepper and a tomato.
I roasted it all in the oven until the chilies blistered and browned. I pureed it with cider vinegar and salt.
My hot sauce has a pop of sweetness in the beginning that gives way to a lingering heat. It’s definitely hot but wouldn’t win any prizes at East Coast Grill’s Hell Night (which, by the way, is next week and all four nights are sold out).
Vinegar based hot sauces will keep for many months in the refrigerator. But to play it safe, I decided to freeze half. I would have canned it, but I ran out of jars.
From the garden: garlic, tomato
From the Farmers’ Market: chilies, onions, red bell pepper
Julia’s Hot Sauce
1 bulb garlic
½ red bell pepper
1 large tomato
1 – 2 tbs. canola oil
¼ - ½ cup vinegar
- Remove the stems from the chilies. Peel the onion, and cut into chunks. Peel the garlic. Cut the red pepper into quarters. Remove the stem from the tomato and cut into large chunks.
- Toss the vegetables in oil and roast in a 375F oven for 20 – 30 minutes until the chilies are blistered and lightly browned.
- Put everything in the blender and add just enough vinegar so that you can puree into a smooth paste/sauce. Season with salt.
- Refrigerate, can or freeze.