Growing up in a household where spiciness did not reside, my introduction to fiery condiments came rather late in life via salsa with Mexican food. I loved the bold assault of salsa verde in my mouth and appreciated the clean flavors of tomato, onion, garlic and chili peppers. Jarred salsas with their more “saucy” textures were a nice addition to nachos and other cheesy Tex-Mex dishes. Yum – it was a new world!
Once the door was opened, it seemed like there were countless other ways of making food spicier. Frank’s Hot sauce made Buffalo style wings a treat that I could almost replicate at home. For the record, I always balked at the amount of butter necessary to truly copy restaurant prepared wings. That’s just me.
When I worked at Yono’s in Robinson Square, sambal became part of my spicy condiment language. I learned there were a lot of hot peppers in the world and that my typical response to something very spicy was the hiccups. Same thing with my brother. Weird, right? The sambal we served at the restaurant was available in a couple of different degrees of intensity and I enjoyed the most mild one, while keeping track of which of my guests preferred it hotter.
Post-Yono’s, Sriricha had its moment. Don’t you remember? It was on everything! There was some whacky shortage at one moment in time and people just about lost their minds. I have a squeeze bottle of it in my fridge, but don’t really use it very often. And, now that I have a hot new love, don’t imagine I’ll be reaching for it any time soon.
Do you know the term Baader-Meinho Phenomenon? It’s when you notice or see something for the first time and then continue to encounter that same thing repeatedly. Well, that’s what happened between me and Chili Crisp.
It started with Bon Appetit magazine and a Pork and Asparagus Stir Fry. The ingredients list included “chili crisp” for serving, something I’d never heard of before. I made the recipe and swapped sambal for the chili crisp and, flavor wise, it was satisfactory.
A couple of weeks later, the NYT Sunday magazine had a simple green bean and tofu dish that looked easy and delicious. Again, chili crisp was listed as an ingredient, but this time it was an integral part of the marinade. There was no avoiding it. A trip to the Asian Market had to happen.
Early last week, I visited the Asian Market on Colvin and scored with a huge bag of fresh green beans, tofu (something that is very difficult to find in other grocery stores), and a jar of magical flavors and textures aka Chili Crisp.
If you’re looking for it, it is not in the aisle with crushed peppers. You’ll need to go one aisle over towards the fish department to find it on the shelf. You’re welcome.
So, this stuff is fantastic. It needs to be stirred (I use a chop stick) before use because the solids settle. Don’t forget! Once you’ve redistributed all of the crunchy bits and spices, apply it liberally to whatever you want to kick up the dial on. Chili crisp will take you up to an 11 in flavor without burning out your taste buds. Bonus – no hiccups for me.
Let me know what you think!