Tag Archives: hot & spicy

Feeling Saucy: Peanut Satay

23 Oct

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Peanut sauce is most commonly considered a feature of Southeast Asian cuisines, though it is also found in China and even the Middle East, in varying forms.  It can be cooked with chicken or shrimp, incorporated in noodle dishes, or used as a dipping sauce for vegetables or crackers.  Peanuts and peanut butter can serve as an excellent snack, due to their protein-rich, appetite-suppressing qualities, even in small amounts.  My favorite variation is a rich, creamy sauce with hints of lime and cilantro.  Though I’ve used standard peanut butter, there is no additional sugar or sweetener needed, and the coconut milk gives an excellent base to blend the flavors together.  If you choose to go with an all-natural peanut butter or grind your own peanuts instead, you will likely need to add a dab of brown sugar or syrup in some form, to finish the job.


peanutsatay001

Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
4 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup water

Heat the coconut milk to a low simmer in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan (a Korean-style stone pot worked excellently, for me) over medium heat.  Add cilantro, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes.  Mix well. Once the spice mixture has come back to a gentle simmer, turn the heat down to low and add peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha, and lime.  Stir until the peanut butter has ‘melted’ into the liquid, but be careful not to burn.  You may need to turn the heat off for short periods, if your pan is too thin.  When you add the water, the mixture in the pan will turn whitish and creamy, but thicken once again fairly quickly.  Stir well to blend all ingredients together.

Refrigerate before serving as a dip, salad dressing, or sandwich spread.  Note that the chili oils will separate easily and float to the top, so stir (or shake) before using.  Satay sauce can also be used to stir fry with chicken or seafood, but ensure the meat is nearly cooked before adding it, because the peanut sauce may burn and stick if the heat is too high.

Makes about 2 and 1/2 cups of sauce.

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Feeling Saucy: Spicy Remoulade

16 Oct

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For a busy October, I decided to feature a series of sauces, highlighting one each week.  While French in name, remoulade comes to us in the US by way of Cajun cuisine, frequently in the company of seafood, fried food, or po’boys, and with an accompanying dose of spicy heat.  This works great as a substitute for tartar sauce, a dressing for salad, or a dip for anything dippable.  Personally, I thought it made a great pairing with falafel, for lunch.

remoulade001

Ingredients

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup garlic chives, chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco, Ligo, or Frank’s Red Hot)
2 tsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp red pepper flakes

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Mix all ingredients together.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving, to allow flavors to settle.

Enjoy!

Feeling Saucy: Mole Poblano

8 Oct

Growing up in the agricultural belt of the Pacific Northwest, the sheer scope and popularity of Mexican cuisine was so pervasive that it wasn’t until I moved to New York for school that I realized there were places where people actually believed Taco Bell qualified as food, let alone ‘Mexican’ food.  As a child, I didn’t take advantage of this in the same way I might, now–I couldn’t tolerate the taste of cilantro, picked at things I couldn’t recognize, and generally stuck to beef burritos and enchiladas without fail.  Nevertheless, my mother used to faithfully order chicken mole whenever it was available, while I turned up my nose and couldn’t fathom eating any sauce so unconventional.  Years later, I found myself craving it now and then, with only hazy memories of the dish to go on, and in Korea, I’m sure you can imagine it became even harder to procure.

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Mole sauce (pronounced ‘mol-LEH’), in its native Mexico, refers to a wide range of thick, richly-flavored sauces, all of which are based upon varying blends of chili peppers thrown together with nuts and other spices.  Legend has it that mole was invented more or less by accident, when a group of poor nuns found that an important visitor would be arriving, and needed something to feed him.  Chili peppers, day-old bread, nuts, spices, and a little chocolate were sacrificed to the cause, along with an old turkey, and a quintessential fusion dish was born.  Ingredients indigenous to Mexico, such as chili pepper, tomatoes, squash seeds, and chocolate may be cooked alongside Mediterranean almonds and raisins, African sesame, and even Asian spices such as anise and cinnamon.  Despite being based on dried pepper, the sauce is not hot-spicy, but features a rich, slow depth of taste that can be disconcerting to those used to milder flavors.

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Dalkkalbi

25 May

A uniquely Korean food that I’m always a little surprised hasn’t caught on more, internationally, is 닭갈비 (dalk-kalbi).  In Seoul, dalkkalbi restaurants are everywhere. dalkkalbi001
You come in as a group, sit down around a table with a built-in hotplate, and the server brings your chicken to cook in front of you while you wait.  At heart, it’s just spicy chicken stir-fry.  External trappings may include 떡 (ddeok, or rice cake), potato, sweet potato, an assortment of vegetables, mushrooms, glass noodles, shredded cheese, or even a round of fried rice at the end.  Either way, I’ve never met a foreigner who tried it and didn’t like it.

I’ve been telling myself I was going to whip up a batch at home for months, now, but between the move, training for a new job, and general new-home issues, I didn’t find time until today.  I used an excellent recipe, which I really didn’t stray too far from.  The curry powder was kind of a surprise addition, but I tried it and it really works. Anyway, I’m exceptionally pleased with how this batch came out.  Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do with all the leftovers!

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In Search of the Perfect Bowl of Chili

2 Oct

I had a Monday off work, due to the Harvest Festival here. It’s one of the two biggest holidays on the South Korean calendar–the other is the Lunar New Year–and one of the few times I can rely on my friends also getting a day off.  The weather’s starting to turn a bit nippy here, especially at night, and for some reason, holidays among our crew of ex-pats seem to invariably mean Tex-Mex food makes an appearance.  Chili was the logical conclusion.  And before anyone starts, I know that “real Texas chili” doesn’t include beans.  However, I’m not Texan, and the way I grew up eating chili, it never lacked them.  To me, a pot of chili without beans seems more like sloppy joe topping than a filling meal in its own right.

Preconceptions about beans aside, this hasn’t stopped me from experimenting with different spices and blends to find the perfect combination of spicy-sweet-rich for a bowl of chili.  Monday’s, I think, was a success I’ll keep on permanent file.

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