Please excuse my absence in the last couple of months. Rest assured, I’m back and will make sure that your hunger for my ruminations will be satiated 🙂

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Through reading various food blogs, I came across this recipe from Andrea Nguyen for Vietnamese-Style Sate Chile Sauce. The moment I saw it, I knew I had to take a stab at making a batch. I love all of the ingredients in this recipe and was hoping that the finished product would exceed the sum of its parts.

Back in September, Jason and I picked up some lovely looking hot chili peppers at the farmer’s market in Brooklyn with exactly this recipe in mind. Unfortunately, I don’t think they were the Thai bird chilis specified in the recipe. My final product was not as spicy as I had originally anticipated after reading Andrea’s descriptions of her own sauce. Initially we just chalked it up to us having a higher threshold for spicy flavors. Upon further research, I’m pretty sure we just picked up the wrong peppers. In this case, further research meant biting into a raw chili. I would’ve paid dearly if it were a Thai bird chili but it only left a light tingle on my tongue.

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I had to modify Andrea’s recipe a bit because I didn’t have lemongrass at home but it still turned out delicious. Plus, it was fairly easy to pull together, if not a bit patience-testing.

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Vietnamese-Style Sate Chile Sauce – Makes enough to split a week’s supply with a friend who also likes to put some on every single bite of food he/she eats. If you’re normal though, this should make enough to hold you over for about a month or so. (~2 cups)

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3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
zest from one lemon
1 cup of peanut oil
8 grams fresh Thai bird chilis, minced
30 grams crushed red thai chilis
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 to 4 tablespoons Sriracha

In separate batches, run the garlic, shallot, and lemon zest through a food processor until each ingredient is finely minced.

Put all but 2 tablespoons of oil into a small saucepan and add the garlic. Heat over medium low and as soon as the garlic starts sizzling, turn the heat down to low. Let the garlic fry on low for about 5 minutes. The garlic should not brown.

Add the shallots and fry for another 10 minutes. Again, nothing should be browning.

Add the lemon zest and continue to fry for 10-15 minutes. Your kitchen should smell heavenly at this point (garlic, shallots, and lemon frying…what do you expect it to smell like???)

Add the fresh chilis and fry for 5 minutes to release their oil. Your mixture should start turning orange at this point.

Add the crushed red pepper and fry for 5-10 minutes. After this, you should be able to smell the heat and expect your husband to appear asking if it’s ready yet.

Stir in the Sriracha, fish sauce, sugar, and salt. Raise the heat slightly and let cook for 1-2 minutes longer.

Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Taste and add Sriracha, fish sauce, sugar, and/or salt to your liking. I added more Sriracha and fish sauce to mine because I like heat and savoriness! Sugar would be added to tame the heat but chances are if you wanted to do that, you wouldn’t even be interested in attempting this recipe.

Your finished product should have a layer of bright red/orange oil floating on top. If it doesn’t, add enough of the reserved oil to do so.

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If you want a smoother texture, you can take a stick blender to it and grind it to the consistency you like. After the sauce is completely cooled, pour it into a glass jar (or a plastic one if you don’t care that it will most likely be dyed orange) and keep in the refrigerator.

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I gave half of the batch to our hot-sauce-loving friend C who approved of the flavor but agreed that it could’ve used a bit more heat. We used the other half as a condiment on our eggs and as a wonderful addition to roasted potatoes. Unfortunately, this left us out within a week.

Other than the fact that I had an episode of coughing like an 80-year old chain smoker (see chef’s note), making the hot sauce was surprisingly easy and extremely rewarding. Continuing on the hot sauce obsession, this past Thanksgiving we went to Mexico and had a great salsa verde. I managed to get the ingredients from the bus boy but no measurements. It should be interesting to try to duplicate it… That’s the next hot sauce on my list as soon as I can find some green Habaneros somewhere. Anybody know of a source?? I’ll split the batch with you!! 🙂 Sorry C.

* Chef’s Note: The mortar and pestle with the dried chilis at the beginning of this post in was used purely for photographic purposes. There was no way I could use my mortar and pestle to crush the peppers as fine as I wanted it so I had to resort to running them through the food processor. It was a good idea to get to the end goal but the level of hacking and coughing on my part because of the spicy powder released into the air made Jason question the method. If you can get it pre-crushed, I would suggest going that route.

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