Make classic Hmong hot sauce (kua txob)
that's ridiculously good with all kinds of grilled meats. No kidding. Spicy Thai peppers, cilantro, scallions, fish sauce, lime juice... Goes great with beef, chicken, pork, lamb, game meats and more. For this hot sauce recipe, pounding Thai chili peppers, garlic, scallions and cilantro with a mortar and pestle really opens up the various flavors.
A mortar and pestle is a staple in every Hmong kitchen. And the bigger, the better. Weathered clay mortars and wooden pestles are typical, but aluminum mortars have had some popularity because they're lightweight and durable. The shape and materials of these mortars and pestles are specialized for pounding actions, not so much for grinding as granites are. Aside from crushing spices and making spicy papaya salad
, they're used to make any variety of hot sauces and spicy side dishes to go with almost every meal, even breakfast.
There's a difference between chopping fresh herbs with a knife or a blade, as in a food processor, and pounding herbs until they're good and macerated. Then they release their healthful potent juices which we combine with fish sauce and lime juice. You'll notice that not only are the herbs green, but even the sauce itself is green. All individual ingredients meld into a singular homogenous sauce that's slightly thick so it coats meats easily. This sauce is meant to have the look and feel of an aged sauce where all ingredients have blended into a super sauce. (Authentic traditional Hmong cooking uses monosodium glutamate (MSG) in many dishes, but you may eliminate this ingredient if you have a food allergy. Here, we use just a pinch to enhance the hot sauce, not to overwhelm it.)
When buying fish sauce, we like a Thai brand fish sauce that doesn't have MSG listed as an ingredient. Even though we use a little MSG in this recipe, we like to be able to control the amount used. If you're sensitive to MSG, watch out for hydrolyzed vegetable protein too. It's just another form of glutamate. Even if you're not sensitive to MSG, we find that some brands use too much MSG for our liking. For that reason and because we use fish sauce in other dishes where we don't want the MSG content, we like the humble (and cheap) Lucky brand fish sauce. Every brand of fish sauce has a different sodium content, so if you're using a different brand, check its sodium content and adjust the amount of fish sauce to be used accordingly. See below for Lucky brand fish sauce sodium content.
Lucky brand fish sauce. Ingredients: Anchovy extract, salt, sugar, water.
Nutrition Facts: Serving size 1 TBSP (15 g)/ Sodium (1060 mg)
(Net: 23 fl oz) Product of Thailand
You can imagine that this Hmong hot sauce is spicy but it's easy to tone down the chili peppers if you can't take as much heat. You might also want to have whole milk in the refrigerator to kill the burn should it get unbearable! The first few unassuming bites might seem mild enough for you to enjoy the great flavors, but the heat compounds with each additional bite and then only the real pepper lovers will be left standing.
This sour, spicy, garlicky sauce is a favorite Hmong hot sauce, requested with just about every meal. Aside from grilled meats, try it also with eggs (especially with runny yolks), rotisserie chicken, corned beef, and dressing sandwiches.