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Update: Kudos for Hot Sauce

Review in the Oregonian: “In a nutshell: If you like to pour on the heat, you’ll dig the firepower in this new cookbook of pepper sauce recipes. Rather than offering creative uses for bottled sauces, hot sauce authority Robb Walsh shows how you can create fresher versions using chiles, fresh veggies and basic [...]

Homemade Cayenne & Tabasco Sauce

Jim "Pepper Rancher" Sherman

Jim Sherman, my gardening guru, told me to meet him at a raised bed garden this morning. He was trying to clean the place up to get it ready to plant the fall and winter crops. The last plants left over from the summer were peppers and they were out of control. There were so many red ripe cayenne and tabasco peppers he couldn’t pick them all. The birds were having a field day. He had been reading the series about Homemade Pepper Sauces on this blog and knew I could put some peppers to good use.

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b-10: 2nd Generation Houston Vietnamese

The Vietnamese steak and eggs at b-10 are a new take on the classic bo luc lac, the Vietnamese dish better known as “rock n’ roll beef.” At b-10, they use high quality filet mignon marinated with lemongrass instead of the authentic chewy cuts served in Vietnam. The steak and egg combination is an American coffee shop breakfast favorite and the sizzling comal is borrowed from Tex-Mex. I puzzled at the plastic cup half full of pate and half full of mayo. “Stir the pate up with the aioli and spread it on your baguette, that’s what the kids do,” my tablemate Thuy Tran instructed. It was excellent advice.

Thuy Tran and her mom Thu Ho filled me on the complicated saga of their Vietnamese restaurant. b-10 Vietnamese Cafe was called Givral when the banh mi and pho restaurant on Bellaire was first opened in 1988 by a Vietnamese man named Hoang. The most popular order there has long been b-10, the barbecued pork banh mi sandwich. Recently, the restaurant changed its name from Givral to b-10 Vietnamese Cafe and opened a satellite sandwich shop at Westheimer and Hillcroft. The name change ended the confusion among the three Houston Vietnamese restaurants named Givral–the other two are Givral on Milam and Les Givrales Kahve on Washington.

The namesake of the Houston restaurants was the original Le Givral Cafe which was located at the corner of Dong Khoi and Le Loi streets in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. For over 60 years, the historic Le Givral Cafe was the favorite meeting spot for travelers and Saigon-watchers. It closed in April of 2010 when the owners of the building decided to demolish the center for new construction.
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Indonesian Deviled Eggs

This hybrid of Indonesian telor balado and Deep South church picnic deviled eggs will rock your cocktail party. The egg yolk filling is seasoned with Indonesian sambal, Squid brand fish sauce, chopped green onions, anchovy paste and Thai chiles. You can make them hot, very hot, or ridiculously hot.

Indonesian sambal is a complex hot sauce that combines a base of shallots, garlic and ginger with tamarind and your choice of other flavorings, all ground together in a mortar and pestle with a lot of red hot chile peppers. I added a little tomato to my sambal to smooth it out. And I used a Vitamix instead of the mortar and pestle because I am lazy.

The sambal recipe is for my new project, The Hot Sauce Cookbook from Ten Speed Press (May 2013). Once I had the sambal ready, I used it to make Sambal Eggplant and Telor Balado, an Indonesian dish of fried hard-boiled eggs topped with Indonesian hot sauce.

This morning I was working on a deviled egg recipe for the Louisiana pepper sauce chapter of the book. I started with the very old church picnic recipe in James Beard’s American Cookery that combines mayo, mustard, grated onion and Tabasco sauce. Beard listed a bunch of variations, including a “Mexican” version with cumin and sour cream and another with chopped green chile. Then I remembered the deviled eggs I ate at Grove restaurant in Discovery Green, made with mayo, anchovy and fish sauce.

The connection between American deviled eggs and Indonesian telor balado is so obvious, I am sure somebody must have come up a hybrid like this before. But tell me about it later, right now I am enjoying my breakfast.

(Recipe after the jump) read more Indonesian Deviled Eggs »

DIY Tabasco, Sriracha and Texas Pete: Making Homemade Pepper Sauces

What do you think about xanthum gum?

After months of experiments with fermentation and pepper processing, I am making Louisiana and Sriracha style pepper sauces at home that taste better than the stuff you buy in the store. Rice vinegar, Steen’s cane vinegar, and Spanish sherry vinegar are a huge improvement over the [...]

Fermentation Frenzy

Kim Kosher Hot Pickles

The fermenting frenzy continues. Last week, I was given a half a bushel of heirloom cucumbers, some with lovely ridged skins. I used them to make hot fermented pickles with my own fermented garlic chile paste and ginger. I call them Kim-Kosher pickles. Korean Kimchi is made according to a very sophisticated technique involving multiple brines and rice flour, Kosher pickles are often fermented in a brine with garlic. These are somewhere in between.

My efforts at creating a fermented pepper recipe for the Louisiana hot sauce are complete. Thanks to your comments I learned that it’s a lot easier to ferment whole red chiles cut into coarse chunks than to try to ferment a gloppy mash. After you ferment the chiles, you turn them into mash in a food processor. I also learned from Sandor Katz’s book, “The Art of Fermentation,” that its a great idea to ferment all the ingredients together, so I added garlic and onions to the red peppers.

The fermented red jalapeño, garlic and onion mash tastes so good, my wife and I are smearing it all over everything. I cut the mash 50-50 with Steen’s cane vinegar and put the mixture through a coarse sieve to remove the seeds and skin. The resulting pepper sauce is even better than previous batches.

The mash is incredibly versatile. Chris Shepherd at Underbelly showed me how to combine some of it with fish sauce, lime juice and sugar to make a very tasty nuoc cham. I also used the mash in the Kim-Kosher pickles and will soon use some to make the highly seasoned fermented cabbage Katz calls “kraut-chi.”

Crunchy pickled jalapeños

My efforts to create a green pepper sauce were not so successful. After a week and a half of fermenting, a crock full of green jalapeños, tomatillos, garlic and onions wasn’t very soft. I put some in the food processor and ended up with a gritty mash that doesn’t work for pepper sauce.

But all was not lost. My favorite pickled jalapeños are the crunchy little pods bottled by Trappey’s. On a visit to their Louisiana headquarters years ago, I discovered that the company ferments the peppers in giant concrete vats full of brine. So while my fermentation experiment was a failure, I am not all that sad about it. Yes, I was trying to make green Tabasco, not Trappey’s-style pickled jalapeños. But several bottles full of crunchy pickled jalapeños isn’t such a bad consolation prize.

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The Hot Sauce Cookbook Recipe Contest

Egyptian Hot Sauce

The Recipe Club Invites You to Enter The Hot Sauce Recipe Contest!

My latest book project is called “The Hot Sauce Cookbook.” It will include the recipe for that homemade Tabasco Sauce I’ve been working on here along with a whole lot of other hot sauces.

After more than 20 [...]

Hot Sauce at Home: Fermented Pepper Sauce, Part 2

It ain’t easy. But it can be done. And the results are pretty spectacular.

As you may recall, my first attempt at making fermented pepper sauce began with a trip to the produce terminal on Airline in Houston (also known as the Farmer’s Marketing Association) to find some ripe red peppers from Mexico. I bought ten pounds of ripe jalapeños, washed them, chopped them, pureed them and put them in a 7.5 liter fermenting crock with about 150 grams of pickling salt sprinkled on each layer. I left the open crock out in the sun for a couple of hours to make sure some wild spores got into the mix.

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Hot Sauce at Home: Fermented Pepper Sauce, Part 1


My first foray into making Lousiana pepper sauce started with a search for red chiles. Tabasco chiles were introduced to Louisiana in the 1800s and became the favorite chile for bottled pepper sauces. The recipe included the elaborate step of fermenting the ripe red peppers in oak barrels. Pepper pickers carried a stick painted with the shade of red that the peppers needed to reach. The ripeness was important because you need a decent level of sugar to get the fermentation process going.

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