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Chile Peppers Preserving Hunan

I Have Discovered the Universal Condiment

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Home Cooking 65

I Have Discovered the Universal Condiment

Barry Foy | Aug 2, 2007 01:10 PM

Reading Fuchsia Dunlop's THE REVOLUTIONARY CHINESE COOKBOOK, I noticed how many recipes included what she calls "Hunanese Chopped Salted Chilies," so I decided to make some. To my surprise, the stuff has turned out to be fantastically versatile, useful with a much wider range of foods than I'd expected. The reason is that it's more or less ethnically neutral, meaning it contains no ingredient that specifically tilts its taste toward a particular cuisine. And yet it's full of flavor and great color. In addition to Dunlop's prescribed uses, so far I've flavored mayo with it, made a zingy rice pilaf, and even added a few spoonfuls to a batch of kielbasa I was stuffing that had struck me as bland. Here's the recipe, which couldn't be simpler:

1. Wash 1 lb. very fresh red chiles [I used Fresnos, since that's what I could get my hands on] and dry thoroughly. Cut off their stems and bottoms, and chop coarsely with the seeds. Place the chopped chilies in a bowl.

2. Add 3.5 tablespoons of the salt to the chiles and mix thoroughly. Place in a glass jar and cover with the remaining salt. Seal with a tight-fitting lid. Leave in a cool place for a couple of weeks before using [I just stuck them in the fridge], then store in the refrigerator once opened. The chilies will keep in the refrigerator for months.

No fridge should be without a jar.
And thanks, Ms. Dunlop.

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