La jiao jiang (辣椒酱) is a garnish/condiment used in many Chinese dishes. If you like spicy food, la jiao jiang will become your new best friend. You will hold it and pet it and name it George. You will wrap your arms around it and purr.
The name literally translates as 'hot pepper paste'. You can buy it at most grocery stores or specialty markets, but it's so easy there's really no reason not to make it yourself. I made this batch the other day so I could add it to some spicy Lanzhou cilantro noodle soup I've been craving for a long time.
La jiao is great if there are different degrees of spice love in your house; You can cook with it, but it's often used as a garnish to finish a dish, allowing everyone to control the heat level to their liking.
It's great for spicing up a soup, a noodle dish, or a stir fry. Mix a little into a bowl of rice (one of my personal favorite late night snacks) or just bring it to the table for dipping dumplings.
Make this and become a happier person.
La Jiao Jiang
3-5 hot peppers (Go with a pepper that fits the degree of heat you're looking for; I used Anaheim for this batch and wished I'd gone with something hotter.)
1/4 clove garlic, minced very finely (optional, or a shallot as a substitute is also nice)
1 healthy tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 dash salt
1 splash to 1 teaspoon rice or white vinegar
Chop the peppers finely or blend them roughly in a mini food processor. Do not discard the seeds. Dried chili peppers can also be used if you rehydrate them. Finely mince the garlic or shallot.
Heat oil and a dash of salt in a small sauce pan or wok. Add the peppers and let them sizzle for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Once the peppers have begun releasing their juices and fragrance, lower the heat and add the garlic. After a few minutes add the vinegar (don't overdo it!) and cover. Let simmer for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until peppers are dark red and gorgeous.
Let cool and store in an air tight glass container.
Amounts in this recipe are variable, so feel free to play around, and also larger batches are a great idea if you've got the extra hot peppers to do it.
Refrigerated your la jiao jiang will keep for 2 weeks or more, but a batch this size probably won't last that long. If needed, you can also store it indefinitely in the freezer, and separating smaller amounts into plastic wrapped bundles makes it easy to pull out individual portions.
(Top photos by Launie Kettler bottom photo by Jedd Kettler)