Updated October 2010.
True confession: even The Perfect Pantry runs out of things from time to time. When it happens, I usually do one of two things — substitute, or compensate (by making sure I never ever run out of that particular thing again...which is why I have four jars of peanut butter and three large bottles of white vinegar in my cupboard). When I run out of chili paste with garlic, I do something else: I panic!
Fiery hot, made of mashed chile peppers, salt, soybean oil and garlic, chili paste with garlic forms the basis of my fundamental stir-fry sauce, called
LYDIA'S SPICY TRINITY (named after the famous Cajun trinity: onion, celery and bell pepper):
3 parts Kikkoman reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 parts oyster-flavored sauce
1 part chili paste with garlic
With the Spicy Trinity on hand, you can stir-fry anything — tofu, veggies, chicken, noodles, shoe leather — and it will taste like the world's best street food. Chili paste with garlic also features in the nuoc cham I make for dipping Vietnamese salad rolls.
This pantry item might be hard to find in the grocery store, but it's available in every Chinese or Asian market. In a pinch, substitute sambal oelek and add garlic mashed with kosher salt.
Rotini with spicy meat sauce
1 lb rotini or other twisty pasta
1 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced, or 3-4 scallions, sliced
1 8-oz can mushroom stems and pieces
6 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
4 Tbsp oyster-flavored sauce
2 Tbsp chili paste with garlic, or less (to taste)
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Heat a wok over medium-high heat, and add ground beef. Cook, stirring constantly, until the beef is broken up, thoroughly browned, and has given off its fat. Add onion and mushrooms, and continue to stir fry until onion is translucent. Add sauces and chili paste, and stir to combine. Add pasta to the wok, and toss until almost all of the liquid in the sauce has been absorbed and the pasta is coated completely with the sauce, 1-2 minutes. Add pasta water if needed, one tablespoon at a time. Serve hot.
Other recipes that use chili paste with garlic:
Drunken chili-lime-sherry shrimp with garlic, scallions, sweet peppers and ramen noodles, from Cooking... by the seat of my Pants!
Pork with green beans and basil, from Kitchen Chick
Spicy mayo, from Grow. Cook. Eat.
Spicy lentil salad, from The Omnivore's Solution
Spicy sweet chicken, from Blue Kitchen
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