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Pesto, chutney, whatever. I go on flavor profile "kicks", right now I am craving Asian - soups, stir fries, curries, you name it.

Here's my thought. I want a simple condiment that I can add to anything (chicken soup for example, homemade or Campbell's condensed, even 40 cent ramen) to give that "kick" that screams 'Asian'. I'm hoping that it will last 2 weeks in my fridge.

Here's my thinking: How about quickly sauteing minced garlic and grated fresh ginger in a tiny amount of neutral oil and letting it cool. Then I whip out the food processor and pretend I'm making classic pesto but with cilantro instead of basil, sesame oil instead of olive?? Maybe I'd add some Thai basil just for fun. Toasted sesame seeds instead of pine nuts? Perhaps roasted peanuts? The big question is the sesame oil. I find it strange that I can't find a single recipe by Googleing. Is there something about one of my favorite ingredients that I am missing?

Any advice would be appreciated, I'm too broke to experiment randomly.

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sesame oil is a pretty intense flavor, maybe use a small amount of peanut oil and a small amount of sesame oil - and how about some fish sauce? –  dax Sep 15 '13 at 7:18
    
@dax Fish sauce could be a great addition. Speaking of moderation - I once had a bottle of Dr Pepper in the door of my fridge right next to my rarely used fish sauce. Unfortunately you can guess the rest....AARRGGHH! –  Jolenealaska Sep 15 '13 at 7:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I actually really like your idea, and will do some experiments next time I can.

Anyway, sesame oil is much too intense a flavor, and way too expensive to use as an oil base for this. Add some for flavor, certainly, but the main oil should be one of the neutral "yellow" oils. Canola/soy/peanut/corn/etc.

Coriander (Cilantro) is definitely the leafy base, but I think you should add some Kaffir Lime leaves too, as they are a part of the distinctive Thai flavor.

Also, if you can get Galangal, use that instead of ginger, as it is a similar flavor, but more authentic to Thai food.

I would use roast peanuts instead of pine nuts, but only about 2/3 of the amount, as their flavor is stronger.

The last thing would be lime juice, though you shouldn't add that to your condiment but rather add it separately when using the condiment. Adding it to the main jar will cause the whole thing to spoil more quickly, if I'm not mistaken.

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I've never even seen a Kaffir Lime leaf. That's the price I pay for living in the boonies. What would that add? Do I just process it with my other herbs? –  Jolenealaska Sep 15 '13 at 9:21
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@Jolenealaska: I can't really explain what Kaffir Lime leaves add in words, except to say that it is a distinct Thai flavor. I can only get them dried, so I'd need to soak them for a while and then add to the other herbs for processing. They are not a critical part of the flavor profile, but they do add a very nice authentic twist. –  Carmi Sep 16 '13 at 8:36
    
I was just at our local way-too-expensive-but-fun "gourmet" grocery store. How 'bout that? I wasn't even looking for them, but there they were - fresh Kaffir lime leaves. So I bought a few. Interesting flavor. I think I'm getting close! –  Jolenealaska Sep 16 '13 at 23:49

You will find multiple cilantro pesto recipes if you google, although many are not biased to the Asian flavor combinations.

If you simply want a condiment that adds Asian feel to dishes or soups, you might consider the following, all of which are common in various parts of Asia, and will last a long time in the refrigerator:

  • Soy sauce - the fundamental seasoning of the region
  • Fish sauce -- many regional variants, which provide richness and complexity; use in moderation
  • Hot chili oil
  • Sriracha sauce -- a hot chili sauce from Thailand
  • Fermented bean sauces, such as black bean sauce or brown bean sauce - give a rich, complex, very Chinese flavor

You could use any combination of the above, reserving your fresh cilantro leaves for garnish after the dish is cooked.

You can also make up a simple condiment from soy sauce (3 parts), red or rice wine vinegar (1 part), with a touch of garlic, ginger, and hot chili flakes, perhaps a touch of brown sugar. Let it sit for an hour to develop flavor. This will give a Chinese feel to almost any dish, as it contains all of the base flavors of the cuisine; it is also great for dipping dumplings in. It should hold a couple of days in the refrigerator.

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I have looked, but I've never found a recipe that looks like it would achieve the effect I want. I have received some good advice here though. You bring up black bean sauce, that's something I hadn't considered. Hmm... –  Jolenealaska Sep 16 '13 at 3:16

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