Today, I threw down some money to mess around with bottled sauces.
Never in a million years that I thought I would buy bottled Thai red curry, Thai sweet chili, peanut sauce, yellow curry sauces. I usually walk past that aisle without paying any attention with my nose turned up. I make these sauces myself, which are hard to beat! BUT I am taking this task as a challenge.
My friends often ask me how I made this dish, that dish. I told them and concluded that they were easy. Most often than not, I would hear this response, "I am not you, Som." When I told my friends about this blog, they told me they wanted something easy and uncomplicated. But good food is about layering flavors, and balancing them into harmonious orchestra of taste. How can I simplify my dishes but still have flavors that hit it out of the park?
If you are not new to my blog, you know that my food has many elements to them but these "elements" are often waiting for me in the fridge. When an inspiration strikes, I can rummage through my fridge to find something that excites me, something that makes a light bulb go off in my head. But for many people, when they cook, they start from zero. So I understand why it's easy for me but not for them.
At Trader Joe's today, I bought variety of sauces to see what they taste like and how to fix them up so they would be acceptable to use. Mind you, I do not get paid from Trader Joe's for doing this. I just like the store and feel that their products are decent and reasonably priced and many people I know shop there. Of all the bottled sauces I bought, the only sauce that doesn't need fixing is Green Dragon Hot Sauce. Yay!!! I will use that in a pinch if I don't have my salsa verde in the fridge.
1. Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
This is very cloyingly sweet with too much of xanthum gum so it's quite goopy. Actually every bottled sauce I bought today were goopy. I need to fix this into homemade consistency look and feel. This are how I fix it by using ingredients people normally have in the kitchen. I have balanced cloying sweet sauce with some fire! Choose one of these and use it for a sweet, spicy element in your dish.
Option one - 2 Tbs. Sweet chili sauce+1 Tbs. canned adobo chili (chopped finely)
Option two - 1 Tbs. Sweet chili sauce + 1 tsp. Sriracha sauce.
2. Hot & Sweet Chili Jam
Oh, I hate the texture of this jam. Loaded with hard chili seeds, not good mouth feel. One can not use a lot of this.
Option one - 1 Tbs. Sweet Chili Sauce + 1 tsp. Sriracha sauce + 1 tsp. Hot & Sweet Chili Jam. This one has a balance of sweetness, heat, and smokiness.
Option two - 1 Tbs. Hot & Sweet Chili Jam +1 Tbs. fish sauce + 1 tsp. ground dried chili peppers + 1 tsp. maple syrup + juice from 1/2 lime + 1/2 tsp. ground rice powder + 1/2 tsp. tamarind paste +chopped cilantro. (ground rice powder-roast uncooked rice on dry skillet until golden brown, then grind them into rough powder). This sauce is good with grilled meats. Think Thai street food! Make grilled marinaded pork on a stick to go with this sauce and don't forget sticky rice!
3. Thai Red Curry Sauce
This is not too bad. I can taste lemongrass but it is one dimensional. It doesn't have other spices to balance it. I need to add more spices and fix its consistency. When using canned coconut, shake the can first. You can use the recipe below in my Cheesy Mock Enchiladas or serve with grilled meat or fish. For these cases, you need to heat up the sauce.
1/2 cup Thai Red Curry Sauce + 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk + 1 1/2 tsps. maple syrup + 1/2 tsp. fish sauce + 1/2 tsp. each garlic powder, onion powder, coriander powder + 1/4 tsp. each cayenne peppers, cumin powder
4. Enchilada Sauce
This is one of the worst sauces I tried today. It's so bland. The flavor goes nowhere. I can't believe they bottled this crap! In this fixed recipe I am trying to mimic chipotle cream sauce. You can use this in my Cheesy Mock Enchiladas as well.
1/2 cup Enchilada Sauce + 1/4 cup cream + 1 Tbs. canned adobo, chopped finely + 2 tsp. ground cumin + 1 tsp. ground coriander + 1 tsp. garlic powder + 1 tsp. salt + 2 1/2 tsps. maple syrup.
5. Satay Peanut Sauce
This sauce is just sweet and sour and lacks complexity. Chopped roasted peanuts and kaffir lime leaves (which can be purchased at many Asian groceries) are essential here. Use this with your grilled meats or as vegetable dip or in your peanut noodle salad. It will work in your Bathing Rama, a piled of steamed spinach topped with stir fried chicken and peanut sauce.
1/2 cup Peanut Sauce + 1 Tbs. coconut cream, not milk + 1 tsp. fish sauce + 2 tsp. maple syrup + 1/2 tsp. tamarind paste +1 Tbs. chopped roasted peanuts + 1 kaffir lime leave, sliced finely.
6. Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
This one is the best of the bunch. It has curry flavor but I hate the consistency of the sauce.
1/2 cup Thai Yellow Curry Sauce + 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk + 1/4 tsp. cayenne peppers.
Now I did it! You can substitute this sauce in your cooking to help you get delicious food on the table. Admittedly, it's not as good as homemade sauce. But if you serve these sauce to me, I will be happy to get a repeated invitation for dinner at your house!
An update: I used the fixed red curry sauce and the enchilada sauce in my cheesy mock tamales to test the recipes this morning. My guinea pig husband loves it. He said he would not have known that they were not homemade sauces. This came from someone who has eaten my food for 30 years! My mission is accomplished. Now I have to convince you to try them yourself!