Hot Sour Salty Sweet: sauces, chile pastes, and salsas/ simple soups
February 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the sections on sauces, chile pastes, and salsas and on simple soups here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.
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Two more condiments:
Fresh Garlic-Chile Paste (Thailand, Vietnam), p. 27
It doesn't make that much (just a couple of Tb). If I were to do it again, I would double the recipe. Pretty simple -the ingredients are crushed garlic and fresh bird chiles, salt, and lime juice. I used a mortar (or actually my molcajete) to crush the chiles and garlic with salt until smooth (be careful not to splash your eyes!). Then add a tablespoon of lime juice. Lots of nice heat. The author refers to this as the fresh version of chile sauces like Sriricha. It would have been great in the beef ball soup, but I didn't have limes at the time.
Salsa with Poppy Seeds (Southern Thailand, Laos, Yunnan), p. 44
I ground 2 Tb of poppy seeds in a small coffee/spice grinder. Added them to 3 roasted mild chiles (I used Cubanelles) and 8 garlic cloves, cilantro, and salt. I pulsed in the food processor until smooth. A pretty green sauce, it's fresh and herbaceous with a delicate nuttiness from the poppy seeds. I thought it was a little bland at first, especially compared to all the other strong-flavored condiments I've made, but I think it would be tasty layered with other sauces and flavors.
Vietnamese Beef Ball Soup (sup bo vien - Vietnam) p.62
Nice flavors in this simple soup. I sliced lean beef (bottom round roast) and marinated in a mixture of potato starch, sugar, baking powder, lime juice, fish sauce, ground peppercorns and a bird chile. Did it today, so the meat marinated for about 4 hours. Next, grind the meat in a food processor. Once it is a smooth paste, form the mixture into meatballs and coat with a little bit of roasted sesame oil. An easy broth of one quartered onion and peppercorns simmered in water is made (I left out the lemongrass because my husband doesn't like it). Then simply cook the meatballs in the hot broth for just a few minutes. Lastly, I added fish sauce to the broth, strained it, and served it over the meatballs, garnishing with chopped cilantro and scallions. I had started to make Fresh Chile-Garlic Paste (p. 26) as the traditional condiment, but didn't realize I was out of limes. I used Sriricha as the suggested alternative. I'm glad the extra meatballs freeze well - I'll use them again for this quick easy meal, maybe adding some rice noodles.
Thai Fish Sauce with Hot Chiles (prik nam pla - Thailand, Laos). p. 33.
I made this because it lasts indefinitely and it's a simple (two ingredients) everyday Thai condiment. Very straightforward, just mince 1/2 cup of bird chiles and mix with 1 cup of fish sauce. I'll use some for the Thai fried rice I'm making for dinner tomorrow night.
Rich Lao Salsa (jaew bong - Laos) p. 39.
I chose this one to accompany the Aromatic Lemongrass Patties I made for dinner (p. 251). I had planned on using the mortar to prepare this the traditional way, but after making the above, my eyes were watering and I was sneezing from the peppers!, so I used the good processor for this one also. Toasted garlic, shallots, and dried red Thai chiles along with fresh galangal are mixed into a smooth paste with fish sauce, and then chopped cilantro is stirred in. I found myself slathering this on the pork patties; I'm really glad I made it. It was delicious. The recipe calls for 6-10 chiles. I used 6 which was a nice balance with the heat, though next time I'll make it a bit more fiery and use 8.
I was just re-reading the cookbook tonight, and I noticed that the description of the Lao salsa is that it's traditionally a dark-red/brown color. So, I think what I did wrong was that I didn't toast the shallots and garlic long enough, and/or didn't use enough dried red chiles, or used ones that were too small. Just FYI.
I made both of these for Chinese New Year and loved them both. I used the fish sauce with hot chile sauce for my noodle dish. Apparently I've/we've been using a lot of sauce because only about half is left. The beauty of this recipe is that you just add fish sauce to the hot peppers until the peppers eventually lose their spice. Quick and easy.
I've been slathering the lao salsa on everything. I also made it incorrectly because my version looked just like yours. I used about 8 peppers (book calls for 6-10) and I could probably up the heat a bit to 9 or 10. I don't think with the addition of the peppers it would turn the sauce dark red or brown. I'm not even sure that toasting the shallots and garlic for a longer period of time would do so either. I wonder if the dried peppers the authors used were fresher and still retained more color. But damn, was it tasty. The first night I made the sauce, I put it on steak. Just a regular steak that I pan fried with kosher salt. For Chinese New Year itself, I used the sauce for the lemongrass patties. Then I began to put it on the leftover minced pork and white rice and that was also might tasty.
Maybe it's the type of shallots found in Southeast Asia? Anyways, now I feel better that I didn't do anything wrong! Good idea on the steak, I think I'll do that this weekend.
I love that deceptively simple Thai chile sauce too. I'm glad it's so easy - I plan on always having a jar in the fridge.
I made these yesterday:
Vietnamese Must-have Table Sauce (nuoc cham – Vietnam), p. 28 - v. straight forward.
Vietnamese Peanut Sauce (nuac leo – Vietnam), p. 28 – I used Planter’s dry roasted peanuts instead of roasting my own, and used tomato paste even though I had tamarind pulp on hand – was getting pretty busy by that point. More time consuming than I thought - didn't realize orginally that you cook it - I included the ground pork, and added more water than they suggested. It really thickened up a bit by the time it was nearing dinner, so I reheated w/ a bit more water.
You can make both of these ahead - probably a good idea if you're planning an extensive menu.