I love cooking with jalapenos, chili flakes, serranos, cayenne, hot curry ... and just about every other spice that adds some nice "heat" to a dish. I was talking to a chef friend recently about where he sourced his wholesale spices, and the subject of chili flakes came up. He told me about an Indonesian chili sauce called "sambal oelek" which, according to my friend, is a secret of many chefs. It adds chili heat to dishes without changing the core flavors of the underlying dish.
Well, I looked all over San Francisco and finally found it! That night I came home and made a thai steak salad and added a tablespoon of sambal oelek to the dressing -- perfect! I've since added a little to seafood dishes, black bean chili, meatloaf, and even my grandmother's famous mac and cheese recipe. It adds a delicious layer of spice and complexity to everything. For someone who cooks with so much spice, and who lives around so many Asian markets, I can't believe I didn't know about this stuff.
I'm curious if anyone else uses it? If so...do you have any good recipes that call for it?