The secret to my chili-garlic hot sauce is sizzling chicken fat

Illustration for article titled The secret to my chili-garlic hot sauce is sizzling chicken fat
Photo: Kevin Pang

The way I make ginger-scallion sauce is the way my Chinese brethren have done so for decades: Pouring sizzling oil over the “dry” ingredients, briefly cooking it and helping achieve a smooth, paste-like texture. So when I took on a new cooking project this weekend—chili-garlic hot sauce, meant for poached chicken—I wondered what would happen if I took out peanut oil and substituted with rendered chicken fat.

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I was going for a Southeast Asian vibe, which means using Thai bird’s eye chili and lime juice. I have no exact recipe, only eyeballing and using my Spidey senses, but in short: I combine equal parts peeled/cubed ginger and garlic cloves, a handful of seeded bird’s eye chili peppers (I also experimented with serrano peppers to excellent results) then add in a teaspoon each of salt and MSG powder, and a tablespoon of sugar. At this point, you can either use a mortar and pestle to mash everything together (which some will argue does a better job extracting flavors), or, whazz it up in a blender. Either way, you’ll want to add juice from half a lime plus a splash of water/chicken broth to get things moving along.

From there, adjust to your liking. Perhaps you desire more sugar or more lime juice acid. Maybe you want to use the juice of calamansi, if you can source it. More MSG is always welcomed. This is where you become a cook: taste, adjust, taste again. My last step involve taking chicken skin (my butcher sold me a pound of skins for $1) and rendering out the fat in a hot pan. After I have about 2-3 tablespoons worth, I pour it straight from the pan and into the chili-garlic mixture. The oil will sizzle upon hitting the sauce, and a nutty, savory, intoxicating aroma will bloom upward. I stir everything together, let it sit at room temperature for half an hour to allow flavors to develop, then slather this on anything and everything—poached chicken, grilled pork chops, salmon.

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Surely, adding chicken fat into hot sauces isn’t original with me, but having this jarred in my fridge, ready at a moment’s notice, is one of the best culinary acts I’ve stumbled upon this year.

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

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DISCUSSION

Tebow Kneeled First

Hmmm... I think it’s high time I found the vegetarian sub for chicken fat. God I love chicken thighs especially if you can that crispy oil-fried thing going... But this flavor feels like something that can be replicated. I think butter, msg, soy sauce, and maybe something peanut?, will go a long way.

I’m going to work on this. I love chili, garlic, and chicken fat, but my quest in life is to make delicious food for my vegetarian wife. I'm gonna figure it out.