Monday, September 15, 2014

Hot Competition

My family is very competitive.  Over anything.  Sports.  Games.  Planking.  Even at the dinner table.  Over hot sauce.  A typical point of contention at a Sunday dinner at my parent’s house would be over who could handle the most hot sauce.  For some reason, a tolerance for spiciness has been equated with level of machoism.  Even my husband has been brainwashed by this mentality.  In defense of any questioning over his manliness, his Caucasian palette for spiciness has matured over the years, and he has developed quite a tolerance for heat.  He’ll take a heaping spoon of hot sauce, and before dumping it on top of my mom’s already-spicy Kung Pao chicken, he’ll beckon over to my sister with a grin on his face:  “Hey Catherine….look!”  She’ll re-act with a patronizing eye-roll, and respond with a deadpan: “Okaaay, John. Cool!”  

My brother, who is known to always stir the pot, will impose preposterous hot sauce challenges to his nephews and nieces.  A typical dare:  “I’ll give anyone $50 if you eat this huge spoonful of straight hot sauce.”  The kids’ eyes will widen, and right before they’re about to accept his stupid offer, he’ll add at the last second: “And you can’t drink any water afterwards for 24 hours.”  Mayhem unleashes.  “Crazy!  Unfair!  You can’t do that!”  We’ll spend the rest of the dinner debating if he could technically add on that stipulation at the very last minute, and then we’ll analyze if your body could physically survive all that hot sauce intake without water for 24 hours….and the dinner would just digress from there.

So when I say “hot sauce”, I don’t mean the green-topped bottle of Sriracha.  That’s not hot sauce; that’s like ketchup.  My mom developed her own hot sauce recipe because she was always left with a surplus of serrano peppers every time she made Kung Pao chicken (see 12/21/09 recipe post).  She would only need four or five peppers for that.  But when the Chinese supermarket sells a package with 10 times more than you need, you figure out what to do with the rest.  Chinese people do NOT like to waste anything.  Ever.  That is why we eat cow tongue, pig stomach and chicken feet.  Heaven forbid that you throw anything away.  You simply add some soy sauce and sesame oil, and call it a “delicacy”.  Voila!  Suddenly, the most disgusting animal part is disguised into something “edible-y delicious.”

In the spirit of not wasting a perfectly good cow tongue, why waste a bounty of serrano peppers when you can make something with them (coincidentally, with soy sauce and sesame oil)?  This recipe is very easy and very spicy.  Store your jar of hot sauce in the refrigerator, and it will last forever.  Okay, maybe not forever.  But it’s so spicy, a little goes a long way.  Just remember to stir the jar well each time before use to distribute the pepper seeds evenly.  It will enhance everything you eat.  Even cow tongue.  Maybe I'll challenge my brother to eat a whole cow tongue at our next Sunday dinner.  Without water, OR hot sauce.


Serrano peppers are sold by the package at my local Chinese grocery for just $1.99.  About 2 cups of whole peppers will reduce to about 1 1/3 cup when finely chopped.

Caution: Pepper seeds will start popping everywhere, but refrain from touching them with your bare fingers (or wear gloves).  Tip: (assuming you’re right-handed):  while holding the stem of the pepper steady on the cutting board with your left hand, start cutting from the opposite end of the pepper.  With this method, you will never need to touch any seeds. That’s how mama Dragon Lady taught me how to do it!

MAKES approx. 3 1/3 cups of hot sauce

2 cups whole serrano peppers
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup sesame oil

Finely chop serrano peppers (discard the stems).  Place chopped peppers, including all the seeds (about 1 1/3 cup), in a large, sealable jar or glass container.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil.  Mix well.  Store in refrigerator.  

Caucasian people make homemade jam; Chinese people make homemade hot sauce.  Basically, you need to add equal part of soy sauce and sesame oil – just enough to cover the peppers with liquid.  This recipe yields more hot sauce than an average family would consume in a year.  So I divide mine into three containers:  keep one; give two.  Share your spicy personality!  (Makes a unique hostess gift.)