Red Chili substitution?
I'm planning on making a soup tonight that sounds delicious -- it has ginger, lemon grass, and coconut milk, among other things. I've gotten all of the ingredients, except one -- it calls for a fresh red chili pepper, which I can't seem to find anywhere. I've looked at two regular grocery stores, a store that specializes in fresh produce, two asian markets, and a store that is known for it's wide selection of ethnic foods. There are green chilis all over the place, but I haven't seen a single red that wasn't dried.
The pepper is supposed to be seeded, sliced, and sauteed in butter with garlic, ginger and lemongrass, and then pureed in a food processor. My mom is insisting that we can just use red pepper flakes, which of course are made with dried red chilis, but I'm not so sure. Even if we did, I wouldn't know how much to use, especially since red pepper flakes contain seeds which would increase the heat quotient considerably.
Any suggestions of a good substitute, or should I just scratch the recipe and try to figure out something else to do with my lemongrass?
If you're nervous about about subbing crushed red chile for the fresh red chile, I would suggest using a fresh green chile.
As chiles ripen they tend to become a bit sweeter, so I might even try using something like 3 parts fresh green chile (it sounds like Thai, jalapeño, or serrano would work here) and 1 part red bell pepper to get a a mix of heat and sweetness.
I wouldn't hesitate substituting a fresh green chili, jalapeño for example, for the red chili. I have used crushed red pepper flakes as well, just start with 1/4 (or more) teaspoon and increase - or not - as you wish.
You can always just ripen them at home. Buy the green pepper of your choice, leave it on the counter for a few days, and voila - fresh red chile.