Saturday, October 13, 2007
La Jiao Jiang
La Jiao wha??? You're probably wondering, "What's that crazy BCC talking about now?" Well, La Jiao Jiang is a Chinese chile paste. It can be eaten on its own as a rice condiment but it's more commonly used in cooked dishes. With any luck, I'll first show you how to make your own La Jiao Jiang and then, in a separate post, show you what you can do with it. My recipe for La Jiao Jiang is adapted from the excellent Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
You will need:
1 Cup of dried red chiles
1/4 cup of finely minced shallots
For this recipe, I use the dried Chinese chiles found in your local Asian market. Here's a picture of the brand I use:
I start by toasting the chiles. For whatever reason, I enjoy the flavor it imparts on the final product. To toast the chiles, take the dried chiles and toss them in a dry, hot wok. After a minute, you'll start to notice the fragrance of the chiles. After another 30 seconds or so, you'll see the chiles start to puff with air. I keep toasting until I smell a rich chile fragrance. This usually takes 2-3 minutes. Make sure that you are constantly moving the chiles while they are in the hot wok. If you let them sit in the wok, they might burn. This is unsatisfactory.
Once the chiles are toasted, move them from the wok and into a bowl. Pour about a cup of boiling water over them. You need to rehydrate the chiles but the problem is that they want to float. You will have to devise a way to keep them submerged. Good luck.
While the chiles are soaking, mince your shallots. I usually mince anywhere from 1/4-1/3 cup of shallots. If you notice your cutting board sliding while you're cutting the shallots, here's a trick: Moisten a papertowel and place it underneath the cutting board. Problem solved!
After 30 minutes of soaking, your chiles should be nice and soft. Pour the chiles and the chile soaking water into a food processor or blender. Blend. Season with salt and sugar. The recipe calls for one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon sugar.
Heat a tablespoon of oil. Toss in the minced shallots. Stir fry until the shallots are soft. Be careful not to burn them! Because the shallots are finely cut, they will cook very quickly. Keep an eye on them. When the shallots are ready, add the chile paste. Watch out for the spicy aroma. I bring the whole thing up to a boil and then turn off the heat. Add vinegar to taste...anywhere from 1-2 teaspoons. Done!
Around 40 minutes. However, much of it is inactive, chile-soaking time.
Costs about a dollar. Definitely within the college budget.