Sauces

Chimichurri

Don’t get me wrong, I have come to love chimichurri, but this particular saucy love affair got off to a rather rocky start.

In spite of being the national sauce of Argentina, I’m sad to say that the chimichurri I had in Argentina kinda sucked! Shocking I know, but I spent almost an entire month in the country and from Iguazú in the North to Tierra del Fuego in the South, I never once saw anything resembling the ‘fresh’ chimichurri that most of us have come to expect. Perhaps it was just down to my own misfortune that I somehow missed the fresh version, but the Argentinians seem to favour a ‘dry’ chimichurri which consisted of combining dried herbs and spices with olive oil. Such is the prevalence of this version of the sauce, you can even buy pre-mixed dried herbs in packets from the local supermarket. All you need to do Chimichurriis add some oil and voilà: instant chimichurri!  Typically a large bowl of this dried herb concoction was left on the counter for customers to help themselves to, but to be honest after a few dollops I lost interest as I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. So I mentally ticked chimichurri off my TTL (To Taste List), thought “meh” and moved on.

That was way back in 2011 and since then the world seems to have woken up to chimichurri and has absolutely fallen in love with it. Mercifully, however, it has chosen to embrace the fresh version over the dried aberration that so traumatised me in Argentina! Chimichurri seems to be de rigueur at most steakhouses these days and rightfully so – it is downright delicious! As part of my recent flirtations with a LCHF diet, I’ve been eating a lot of steak recently and chimichurri is far and away my favourite sauce with which to have it. Yes that’s right, I gave the sauce a second chance and I’ve never looked back since. Fresh and piquant, it would seem that chimichurri is, in fact, the perfect accompaniment to a fat juicy steak after all!

Whilst similar to a regular salsa verde, don’t be fooled by appearances. Chimichurri is, in fact, far more robust and complex than its Italian counterpart. The key to a killer chimichurri is the addition of fresh oregano, which sets it apart from many other herb-based sauces. Only a small amount is added, but the oregano adds quite a punch, giving the sauce an earthy depth that cuts through the ‘freshness’ of the parsley and coriander.

Normally I’m a notorious stickler for authenticity and I typically strive to replicate a dish as authentically as I can, based on my travels or research. That said, however, when it comes to chimichurri I have to abandon my principles and advocate making the sauce contrary to my experiences in Argentina! So it is in that spirit I feel the need to confess that this recipe for ‘fresh’ chimichurri recipe is like nothing I had in Argentina…which trust me, can only be a good thing!

I don’t say this often, but perhaps sometimes the locals just don’t do it best.

Note: Whilst chimichurri is synonymous with steak, the sauce also works well with any other grilled meats, especially chicken, or perhaps even some grilled halloumi if you wanted a vegetarian option

Click here for the recipe

Advertisements

Ssamjang (Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce)

Ssamjang Dipping SauceA classic Korean dipping sauce.

Typically eaten with galbi, ssamjang is usually smeared onto a lettuce leaf, along with a morsel of barbequed meat and raw vegetables. Ssamjang’s appeal is not just confined to being a condiment for Korean food; it is also great on burgers and is insanely good in grilled/toasted cheese sandwiches! The soya bean paste gives the sauce a wonderful smoky depth which, in truth, goes with just about any kind of barbequed meat – Korean or not!

For years I have always thought of ssamjang as being a hot, spicy sauce, and why would I think otherwise? Ssamjang is, after all, a Korean condiment. And then, quite by chance, I recently re-read the recipe and realised that I had, in fact, been confusing the quantities of the soya bean and chilli pastes! I was mortified. My beloved spicy ssamjang was, in fact, nothing more than a fiery aberration! At any rate, it turned out to be a happy mistake, as both versions are equally tasty. I have just come to think of my spicy ssamjang as being my personal contribution to Korean cuisine.

The following recipe is actually for the traditional version of the sauce, but if you would like to try my mutant ssamjang, simply reverse the quantities of the chilli and soya bean pastes (i.e. 1/4 cup gochujang and 1 tbsp. doenjang).

For more Korean recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Korean Pantry, please click HERE

Click here for the recipe

Nước Màu (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce)

Considered an essential component in many classic Vietnamese dishes (such as Bún Chả and Thịt Kho Tàu), caramel sauce (Nước Màu) is perhaps one of the single most important ingredients in Vietnamese cooking. Used to add depth of flavour to a wide range of dishes, caramel sauce also adds colour and imparts a sweet, smoky undertone.

Click here for the recipe

Tonkatsu Sauce とんかつソース

There is a lot to be said for living in Cape Town, most of which is unequivocally positive; the setting is stunning, the weather is perfect and the people are lovely. However, when it comes to sourcing Asian products, it can be described as trying at the best of times.

Tonkatsu SauceDon’t get me wrong, things have improved dramatically in the last decade, but inconsistency is still the bane of the local Asian food market. Items that were readily available one year, are suddenly nonexistent the next – it can be very frustrating to say the least! Japanese goods, in particular, seem to fall victim to this fickle approach to supply; making it hard to replenish an ever diminishing pantry.

So what do you do when you’ve finish your last bottle of store-bought Tonkatsu Sauce? If you’re me, you’d try to make your own of course! Now I would never bother making my own Tonkatsu Sauce if it was readily available to buy, but it isn’t, so I have to improvise. This recipe isn’t quite perfect, but it is a very passable approximation. If you can, however, source it locally, stop reading this recipe immediately. Go buy a bottle and count yourself lucky!

Note: Tonkatsu Sauce is a Japanese condiment that is traditionally served with Tonkatsu (Crumbed Pork Cutlet) or Chicken Katsu (Crumbed Chicken) with steamed rice and salad. It can also be used as a substitute for Okonomi Sauce for Okonomiyaki, if unavailable.

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

Click here for the recipe