I love a good chili sauce. One that has punch, and a bit of acid, with salt to balance the heat and the sour. I’ve been making chili sauces for a few years now, some with dried, and some with fresh chilis. I don’t make them all the time, but when I do watch out. Your taste buds won’t be able to forgive you for seconds in the heat. You can find my basic chili sauce recipe here.
So when we were channel surfing the other night, and “One Plate at a Time” with Chef Rick Bayless was on, I watched in fascination as he combined three of my favorite things: ancho chilis, raisins, and tamarind. “I must make this sauce!” I thought to myself. The partner quickly looked up the recipe, and I rushed out to gather all the ingredients.
In his recipe Chef Bayless uses eggplant, and his protein is fish. Since fish is not an option in our household, I wondered what would go well with the heat of chilis and sweet of piloncillo? Ah, smoked tofu. The smokiness of the tofu and the hint of sour tamarind seemed like a brilliant idea.
Once the tofu was smoked, and the eggplant and ancho tamarind sauce were sufficiently blended and cooked, I served the dish with baby vegetable pickle, and caramelized poblano and fennel chutney. It left a tingle and buzz in the mouth that I won’t soon forget.
I will say that making chili sauce is a messy business. The red can get on everything, and go everywhere. It also likes to stain. Wear an apron, and, if you are not used to handling chilis, wear gloves. Please be very, very careful when cooking the sauce, when it bubbles, it will explode little tiny balls onto the stove, the counters, and even the walls. The quote after the cooking process was, “Do I want to know how chili sauce got on the microwave?” The Simple answer was, ‘The sauce did it.” Clean up right away so you don’t stain your equipment (and so the accusations don’t fly). And especially wash your hands after handling the chilis, the residue can be damaging to sensitive skin.