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I realize this is a bit off of a question, and I apologize if it's not all that great. But here goes.

There is a Thai place near where I live that makes this amazing dish entitled "lava chili". It's spicy, filled with garlic, and absolutely delicious. I have absolutely no idea how I would even begin to try to cook something like it. Here are some properties of this dish:

  • In some sense of the word, it's like an American chili. It's not runny like a curry, it's more viscous.
  • It has a lot of garlic and a bit of ginger, I suspect.
  • Definitely some red pepper flakes and a couple other types of spicy, well, spices.
  • It has some type of oil in it, I can see it.
  • It's a bit tangy, too, and a little sweet.

I'm looking for some help recreating or approximating this dish. I love Thai food and I love Thai cooking, but I only do it for fun and really am not sure where to start on this.

Edit:
It looks similar to this image. thai dish

The website I found that image from describes it as:

This historically highly rustic Thai dish is a very quick stir-fry with Thai chilli jam, normally accompanied with Thai vegetables and rice.

How would I go about trying to recreate that?

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Have you asked the restaurant staff? –  justkt Oct 5 '10 at 13:57
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It is a little difficult to answer with the information given. I think what we really need to know is how you'd consider it to be different from ordinary chili (which also often has garlic, red/hot pepper, various spices, and oil/fat). The tangy/sweet classification helps a bit, but more detail would help to get the kind of answer you're looking for. –  Aaronut Oct 5 '10 at 15:34
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Unfortunately we don't do recipe requests here, unforgiven3.. we do allow 'I got something that is very close to X, how do I get it closer?' really, your best bet is to make friends with people at the restaurant and ask them. –  daniel Oct 5 '10 at 19:27
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We are more than happy to help with recreating/imitating a specific recipe; however, general recipe requests are off-topic as noted in the FAQ. The issue is that there are potentially hundreds of recipes that meet the criteria and no objective way for us to select or vote on them. Have a look at this question for an example of what gets good answers; it identifies a similar, traditional recipe and describes in detail the differences in flavour, texture, and appearance. What we need is a frame of reference. –  Aaronut Oct 5 '10 at 19:36
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@aaronut, cunning ploy for an [Announcer] ;) –  Sam Holder Oct 5 '10 at 22:08
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I generally associate the phrase "chili jam" (also known as chili paste) with store-bought sauces, like this one.

It wouldn't surprise me if they were using a very similar ready-made sauce - perhaps they get it from a distributor or perhaps they even make it themselves in large quantities and store it, but I doubt that they make it from scratch for every meal - few Asian restaurants do.

If the dish you were served doesn't contain ground beef or any of the things you'd traditionally associate with American chili (other than the thick consistency) then this might be as simple as whipping up a stir-fry using a store-bought chili paste. If it's too thick, add a little soy sauce. If you want more tanginess, add some lime juice. If you want more sweetness, add brown sugar. And if it still seems to be missing that certain je ne sais quoi, you might need Thai fish sauce, which you find in almost every Thai dish.

I hope that helps. If it doesn't get you where you want then feel free to report back and explain how it turned out differently from what you expected - one of us can surely take it from there.

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Thank you, I think those are great ideas. Also, how could I forget fish sauce? I've cooked with it, and I'm almost certain this dish has it, so I'll make sure to remember that. Thanks! –  unforgiven3 Oct 6 '10 at 13:05
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That looks like a "fusion" dish - ie, isn't clearly thai or clearly chinese or clearly (you get it).

It looks and sounds like it's actually a thai inspired prawn curry, but perhaps with tamarind, some kind of thickener (ground rice? Wheat flour?), heaps of fat or oil of some description, and probably contains considerable fish sauce and palm sugar, but other than that, there really isn't anything that lets us say what's in it unless we were to actually taste it!

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If the chili sauce itself has a szechuan/General Tso's flavor to it I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't a hoisin & satay sauce base. It appears to have chili pepper flake oil going through it (based on the fringe oil), but i think that to get that consistency along with the sweetness and tanginess they would likely be using hoisin (and maybe a satay) sauce.

Along with the guidelines from @Aar , note that with hoisin the approach I find easiest to cook with is to think of it as a flavor base you are extending with additional fillers. Hoisin is not immediately a tasty ingredient to taste (and is used often as a marinade), but extended across a spectrum of flavors it makes a great binding flavor and can work like tomatoes in chili; that is to say, as a baseline.

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