Thursday, August 02, 2007

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 23 - Some like it hot

...And some think mild chemical burns are mighty tasty...

I would be one of the latter.

I've gone over this before of course, but today I wanted to share one of the sinus searing culinary joys of my life with you, my Asian hot chili wasabi sauce.

It's a simple little thing, so I wasn't going to bother making this a recipe for real men; but I think you'll like it anyway, so why not.


4 tblsp water (room temp or slightly warm, not hot or cold)
4 tblsp soy sauce (natural brewed only)
4 tblsp vinegar based chili sauce (I use Franks RedHot)
2 tblsp pure wasabi powder blend (or 1/2tblsp pure wasabi, 1tblsp pure horseradish)
2 tblsp Chinese hot mustard powder (add 1/2 tblsp if you're using pure wasabi instead of blend)
1 tblsp vodka
1 tblsp crushed dried whole chili peppers, or fresh chili paste (choose a pepper to suit your heat)
1 tsp crushed garlic


Ok, this isn't hard, but you have to do it in the right way, with the right ingredients, in the right order, and for the right amount of time; or it's just not going to taste right.

The first step, is to get the right ingredients. You are looking for a good quality of pure wasabi blend, or pure wasabi powder. You're probably going to need to go to a specialty spice merchant, or a natural foods market for this. The wasabi you find at most Asian supermarkets generally isn't really wasabi, its horseradish and mustard with no actual wasabi in it at all.

Why? Because wasabi is EXPENSIVE. We bought 4oz of the BLENDED wasabi powder (which is a blend of pure wasabi, horseradish, and white mustard) at Penzeys a few months ago, and it was $14. Trust me though, it goes a LONG way, and the low quality cheaper substitutes are just not pleasant at all.

You don't need to get pure wasabi though; in fact if you did, you probably wouldn't like it very much (it's very bitter); and besides, it costs about $20 an ounce. The Penzeys blend works just fine; or you

Next you need to get yourself some chinese hot mustard. Normal white and yellow mustards (technically the same plant, but different preparation) are much milder than chinese hot mustard (which IS a different plant, or rather two; it's a blend of brown and black mustard varieties), because they have a far lower concentration of isothiocyanates, the volatile oils which give mustard it's pungency.

Again, the stuff you generally buy in jars at the Chinese market isn't what we're looking for. You want a natural pure hot mustard powder; which again, you can get at Penzeys, whole foods etc...

Both wasabi, and mustard are part of the same plant family; and are aromatic spices (well, wasabi is a risome, but mustard is a spice) that release flavorful aromatic compounds when moistened, including those isothiocyanates, which provides the pungency for both.

When wetted, the pungency of mustard and wasabi will increase for 10-15 minutes 'til it peaks sharply, then falls of slightly to a plateau for several hours, and slowly decreases over time. However, this process can be arrested at any point on the timeline, fixing the heat level and greatly slowing the degradation of flavor for as much as a year or more afterwards, with the addition of mild acids like strong citrus juices, or vinegar.

Additionally, any heat above 140 degrees Fahrenheit for any length of time greatly reduces the overall pungency; and adds a nutty toasted flavor and aroma (that's common to Indian and Thai cuisine).

This friends, is why the order and process is important here. You have to time it properly, and mix the ingredients in the proper order, or you're going to get a flavorless mess.

Ok, enough with the theory, lets do it.

First tings first, crush and mince your garlic and chilis; and mix them into the vinegar based hot sauce. Personally, I like thai hot peppers (also called thai bird peppers... or you can use the similar Chilitepin) here, but anything in the cayenne heat range or hotter is good. For hot sauce I prefer Franks RedHot, but any relatively thin vinegar based sauce is fine here (Texas Pete or Tabasco would also work). Add in your vodka at this stage as well.

Why vodka?

Chilis and garlic both contain alcohol soluble flavorful oils; and you wont get the full flavor out of them with just water or vinegar. It's not necessary to use vodka here of course, any neutral or pleasant tasting alcohol of about 60 proof or more is usable. I simply chose vodka because of its neutral flavor.

Now, add the soy sauce into the mix, and put it aside to let the flavors blend. Don't refrigerate it though; you want the mix to be room temperature. Oh and keep it handy, you're going to need it in about 15 minutes.

Next, take 4 tablespoons of water, and mix your powdered mustard and wasabi blends into a smooth, thin, paste. Depending on the particular blend you've got you may need to add more water. You aren't trying to make the doughlike paste you get in a cheap japanese place; you want the paste to be basically a thick liquid, and thoroughly wet.

Now, here's where you have a decision to make. How much sinus burn do you want? The clock starts running with the first wetting of the powder, with pungency increasing for between 10 and 15 minutes. You need to decide at what point you're going to arrest the progress. You don't really develop any flavor for the first 3-5 minutes, and after 10 minutes the flavor could be a bit harsh for some folks (hell... most folks).

So, what you want to do is taste every minute or so; then when the pungency seems a little bit less than you want, add in the chili mix, and stir quickly to combine.

If you want to moderate the mouth feel, add a little sweetness, and add more Thai or Caribbean flavor to the sauce without significantly reducing the overall spice level; add in 1-2 tablespoons of fresh coconut cream (it's like double thickness coconut milk), or condensed coconut milk; a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg or allspice (or both), and the juice from half a lime. Oh and for Thai specifically, add in a couple tablespoons of Sriracha.

If you want to add a more indian flavor to the sauce use yoghurt instead of coconut milk; and add a bit of turmeric, and a bit of cumin.

You need to let it sit for at least 10 minutes; but the sauce will be best if you let it sit for 2-6 hours before serving.

Once you are ready to serve, you can use the sauce as is; or you can mix it a bit for dipping or pouring. Basically, you can add more soy or chili sauce, more coconut milk, more yoghurt, more water, lemon, or lime juice to modify the texture and flavor to whatever best matches the dish you're serving it with.

Personally, I think it's the worlds best dipping sauce for little bites of Asian meat dishes... but be warned, this WILL clear your sinuses quite thoroughly.

Oh and one last teaser. If you REALLY want to blow your mind, slice up a sweet strawberry to under 1/4" thick and take a piece of extra dark, high solid chocolate of about the same size (like one of the small guitard or ghirardelli squares); then "glue" the strawberry slices to the chocolate pieces with a thin smear of the coconut milk modified sauce.

Trust me, it's incredible. Strange, but REALLY good.

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 22 - Full Fat, Full Dairy, All Killer, No Filler
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 21 - Forget About the Dough Boy
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 20 - QDCBS (Quick and Dirty Chili Bean Stew)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 19 - Chicken Salmonella
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 18 - I'll give YOU a good stuffing turkey (1)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 17 - REAL Coffee
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 16 - DTG (Damn That's Good) dip
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 15 - More Chocolate Than Cookie
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 13 - Mels 10,000 Calorie Butter Cookies
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew