Sunday, April 22, 2012
Today we have a mint chutney all the way from Pakistan. What can I say about Pakistan? I really know nothing about Pakistan except that they don’t particularly like their neighbor India, and India feels similarly about Pakistan, oh and they are both nuclear nations. I don’t want to get into politics, I just find it interesting that neighbors in general often don’t get along well. Really, the interesting part about the neighbor paradox is its infinite scalability. It can be two neighboring countries--there are many cases like Pakistan or India--or you can divide one country in half and feud between the north vs south, east vs west (RIP Tupac and Biggie). Or you can have a feud between 2 states; see North carolina vs. South Carolina... why can’t there be just one Carolina or Dakota? Think of your neighboring cities, uncouth jerks, right? Everyone in every high school loathes their neighboring high school. And of course there is your neighbor, you know, the people who live next to you... I of course love my neighbors, except for the ones who live on the other side of my house... I don’t care for them. Even as I write this, which is a left side of the brain activity, I can feel the the right side of my brain becoming frustrated. And if you want to scale in the other direction, what’s up with Europe? I am pretty sure people subconsciously hate Mars and Venus, and don’t get me started on the the Andromeda Galaxy. Basically we can deduce that if you are not in, you’re out and we don’t care much for you. The funny thing is, this mint chutney from Pakistan really reminds me of mint chutneys I have had many times at Indian restaurants! So there is another lesson we can deduce: when food is good, it’s good... no matter what group you associate with.
Sauce: Mint Chutney
Manufacturer: Home made
Chile Pepper: Green peppers (Capsicum annuum)
Country of Origin: Pakistan (Islamic Republic of Pakistan)
This stuff is really good, actually. It has a nice freshness to it, so it pairs especially well with fried foods. The freshness is due to the list of fresh ingredients: no vinegars, extra acids, or slow roasting on this one. We can also attribute the freshness to the the mint. Mint is a strange ingredient because most of us associate mint with things like toothpaste or fresh breath, and if you don’t, you should brush your teeth more. But when used with the right ingredients mint can be very diverse and add interesting notes to common flavors.
This one you can easily make at home (which our coworker’s wife did for this taste test). You’ll need one bunch of fresh mint leaves, a couple of green chillies, a bit of coriander, salt, and a little bit of water. Then, puree. You can kick up the heat by using as many chilies as you want or use the old trick of leaving the ribbing and seeds out for less heat.
Rating: 7/10 …. definite recommendation! Seal Team 6 style
Sunday, April 15, 2012
This week, we remember a friend who has left us. Don’t worry, he’s not dead, he’s just on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, having gone back to Japan at the end of his contract here. In parting, he left a number of gifts behind for people in the lab: his old bike for M., nearly-new running shoes for another friend (possibly a hint?), and a number of treats. L. is now the proud owner of a high-quality rice cooker, rice from his family farm, seasoning mixes, and Japanese hot sauce. This was an incredible coincidence given that we didn’t have the blog idea yet when he left. An incredible, delicious coincidence.
When said associate came to the lab, like many foreigners he was not thrilled with the local cuisine. So he set upon himself the challenge of making his own food, the food he liked and grew up with. Like most things, cooking is a skill that comes from practice and some trial and error. Now for a story of error. One day I saw him preparing lunch for himself. He got out a large bowl and took two bags from the freezer. He then placed two raw frozen chicken breasts in the bowl and sprinkled an array of frozen vegetables over the chicken. He then filled the bowl up with water and added a ramen-like flavor packet. He then proceeded to microwave the shit out of this bowl... like 15 minutes or so of microwaving. When it was done cooking, he squirted mayonnaise from a tube all over this now scalding hot concoction of frozen crap in water. For those of you that don’t know, Japanese people love mayo, or at least some do. They have special mayo bars in Tokyo where you can order mayo margaritas and other strange mayo-based concoctions. As we sat down to eat our lunch I said to him, “That can’t be good”, to which he replied, “No, no it is very good”. So I asked, “On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being really good and 0 being inedible, what would you give it?” to which he replied, “It was a 1 before the mayo, but now it is a 1.5”. He then proceeded to eat every last drop. I think hot sauce could have at least taken this to a 2.
Sauce: Fundo Kin Liquid Chili Sauce (ekitai no yuzu kosho)
Manufacturer: Fundo Kin
Chile Pepper: Green peppers (Capsicum annuum)
Country of Origin: Japan (Nippon)
We’ve eaten a lot of hot sauces in our time, and this hot sauce was like no other. The English translation of the ingredients on the bottle say: green peppers, salt, vinegar, citric acid. I don’t know what kind of green peppers they meant, but this is really something special. The sauce is pretty salty, so it tastes like the peppers were pickled (maybe Peter Piper picked a peck of them?). This pickling gives it a very funky unique taste. It is also moderately hot and lemony. Overall, this sauce is not messing around: flavor AND kick. I can’t imagine an Asian-style stir fry or rice dish that couldn’t benefit from a spoonful of this sauce. Good choice and great gift!
7.5/10... always keep in in your fridge door.
Some recipes available on the product website. We enjoyed our Japanese-to-English Google translate experience:
- “A little spicy chili oil is not hot so spicy”
- “Plenty of vegetables along with the handy plump meatballs.” [Ed. note: I guess meatballs can come in handy sometimes.]
- And a recipe: “1) A and put the ball ground pork mix dough. 2) is chopped cabbage, carrots cut into strips. 3) plus 1 rounded into bite Nitate a B in a pot. Please boiled while adding an appropriate amount of bean sprouts and then 2.”
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Today we make 'aliyah’. If you don’t know that word, think ‘hajj’ and if you don’t know ‘hajj’ or ‘aliyah’....then put your gun and New Testament down for a sec and google it. Israel is a hot region with many hot topics. I wrote that sentence to illustrate how ridiculous American usage of the word ‘hot’ is. Paris Hilton did not help this situation either with her catch phrase ‘That’s hot’. When you bite into a piece of food, do you ever say, ‘That’s hot’? Then someone might ask you, ‘Spicy hot or temperature hot... or Paris Hilton hot?’ Why not have different words to describe these different feelings?
Now for a short language lesson. Get your mucous going like you’re ready to hock a loogie and say ‘cham’ and ‘charif’. The Hebrew word cham means temperature hot while charif means spicy hot. In spanish ‘calor’ is temperature hot, ‘picante’ is spicy hot, and ‘caliente’ is Paris Hilton hot. I don’t know what these words are in Italian, but it is probably similar to the Spanish words with some gesticulation. Therefore, I propose a new English word... get your mucous going again and say ‘chot’, which means spicy hot. Welcome to the Chot Sauce Diaries; today we are going to Israel.
Sauce: S’chug Red
Chile Pepper: Red hot peppers (Cayenne?) (capsicum annuum)
Country of Origin: Israel (Medinat Yisrael or State of Israel)
People around the lab have really been heeding our pleas for hot sauce! This time, we are eating an Israeli-style hot sauce brought to you by our soon-to-be-Israeli lab member. This Sabra S’chug Red “hot red pepper mix” is definitely Kosher. (Rabbi Menachem Meir Weissmandl agrees, which the internet tells me is important.) It was an excellent day to have brought hummus for lunch.
Unlike the hot sauces from “around the world”, this had some serious texture. And by texture, I mean lots of pepper seeds. I might be new to the world of hot sauces, but I knew that the seeds are the spiciest part of the pepper. I went into this taste test with some trepidation: Would I burn my mouth? (No.) Would I cry at our office lunch table? (Not quite.) Would I break a sweat? (A little.)
Good news, everyone: Sabra S’chug is delicious. You can really tell that the peppers were roasted well for that fiery, but not burnt, flavor. It has a lot of kick, but that doesn’t mean that all you taste is the kick. Just don’t try to do the cinnamon challenge with this stuff or you’ll find yourself reaching for a glass of milk. In addition to hummus, I think S’chug would make most Mediterranean-style dishes more delicious. Mazel tov, Sabra, this is some good hot sauce.
7/10....a good one to keep in your arsenal
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Today, we visit Peru. I have always wanted to go to Peru for the sole purpose of checking out Machu Picchu. There is a small hindrance to this idea though... they eat guinea pigs there. I don’t care how much hot sauce you put on it, I don’t eat guinea pigs. Not just because it is a rodent, but guinea pigs have personality. I had a guinea pig once; his name was Ned, ‘Lucky Ned Pepper’. He was a great guy and an important member of my family for a good 5 years. When he was young, he nearly died from an infection on his feet and a bad case of guinea pig mites. My wife nursed him back to health by soaking his feet in a betadine solution and scraping the scabs of his feet to drain the pus out. The whole procedure took about 45 min and she did this every day for a month and a half. He was eternally grateful and expressed his gratitude after he was totally healed. Ned went on to live a long life filled with organic parsley and dandelion greens, about $35/week of it. When he died, I gave him a proper burial... I didn’t eat him.
Either way, I’d like to know if I can go to Machu Picchu without seeing someone eat a guinea pig along the way. In the meantime, we have the local hot sauce to tell you about.
Sauce: Rocoto Molido
Chile Pepper: Rocoto (capsicum pubescens)
Country of Origin: Peru (Republica del Peru)
The Rocoto sauce is simply delicious; we were all seriously impressed. The packaging looks like a Capri Sun bag of juice, you know the ones that were impossible to get the straw into? Rather than coming from a Peruvian factory, one could be fooled to think that it was freshly made by one’s grandmother (assuming one grew up in a hot sauce loving country like Mexico like R and one’s grandmother had empty Capri Sun bags lying around). It is a thicker sauce, similar to a marinara, and has a nice layer of oil to it too. The flavor of the sauce is zesty, and the ingredients appear to be carefully cooked because the sauce retains a clear orange color and watery texture typical of fresh blended sauce. It tastes like they roasted a red pepper long and slowly over a low heat.
It has a great zing to it and a vivid color. Non hot saucers will feel the burn but won’t run away, while regulars will appreciate the restrained warmth.
Pesto Chicken Sandwich with Rocoto Hot Sauce