Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Sriracha is the only gateway to the wonderful world of chili pastes. Here’s a primer on the others you should be paying attention to.
Now that you know all there is to know about the ever-versatile chile pepper, let's turn our attention its condiment cousin. The term "chili paste" can be confusing because there are many types of pastes, sauces, and condiments living under the chili paste umbrella.
To get acquainted with chili paste, let's start with the basics: Chili paste is a paste made of chile peppers. It can be just that: a thick pulp that traditionally comes from manually grinding chile peppers between two stones, such as in a mortar and pestle or metate. However, it can also be flavored, mixed, and thinned into more of a sauce while keeping the same name. Regardless of the consistency, look to chili pastes as a flavoring agent, a sauce base, a dipping sauce, and slathered on just about everything.
Given that chili pastes are used the world over, there are lots of different types and flavors available. For example, there are countless chili pastes in Mexico, which makes sense given that half the world's chile peppers are grown there. We've isolated the chili pastes that will add great diversity to your cooking: Some may be familiar, others a bit more exotic, but they're all exciting condiments to have around.
Chili pastes that have a hint of fishiness (in a good way) primarily come from Southeast Asia. Heat up any of your favorite Southeast Asian dishes, such as Andy Ricker's Phat Si Ew, with these.
Other things to keep in mind:
What is your favorite chili paste and your number one go-to way to use it? Share with us in the comments below!
First two photos by Bobbi Lin; Phat Si Ew by Austin Bush; Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs by Sarah Shatz; Cambodian-Style Spring Rolls by Nicole Franzen; Short Rib Chili by James Ransom.