Fun Food Friday: Sambal Chili Paste

Cooking again! I know, repetitive, but I believe eating well is one of the little things you can do to make your day brighter. Not necessarily eating well as in getting five vegetables every day or going carb-free or whatever, but eating well as in “this meal is delicious and potentially life-threatening, but it will make me happy to eat it, so I will.” But we should probably still eat vegetables. Science encourages this.

Yesterday’s post, while mouthwatering, encouraged me to think of the spices I use that I can afford. I’m a big fan of cumin and basil and, of course, garlic. But this post is for one of my new favorite ingredients: chili paste.

My mom has a chili story that I hope I’ll get right: my dad was cooking, making tacos or fajitas, and he misinterpreted the “t” (for teaspoon) in the recipe and thought it meant “T” (for tablespoon). So their dinner was made with three tablespoons of chili paste instead of three teaspoons, essentially quadrupling the amount of spice. And lo, there was much suffering and gnashing of teeth and my father was probably banned from the kitchen for a while. The end.

Initially, using chili paste terrified me. I have always had a scornfully low spice tolerance. At first, that jar of mashed-up chilis, brimming with those little kernels of hell known as pepper seeds, looked about as tasty as a live porcupine. But when a Thai recipe called for chili paste, I decided to put on my big-girl panties and give it a try. A teaspoon, you say? Let’s go with half that.

Surprise! Couldn’t taste a dang thing.

The next go-round, I dropped in a teaspoon and a half. This time, my dish had a very nice warmth to it that made me start to think that maybe spicy food wasn’t all that bad. Ever since, chili paste has been indispensable. I use it when I’m marinating the omnipresent chicken. I drop it in stir-fry. It’s absolutely essential to peanut sauce (which, by the way, is ridiculously easy to make: 1/2 creamy peanut butter, 1-3 teaspoons of chili paste, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1/4 hot water to thin it out).

Man, now I seriously want some Thai food.

Happy Fun Food Friday!

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