One of the secrets to elevating homecooked meals from yum to YUM is in employing the power of condiments. To me, a well-stocked pantry isn’t only about having an adequate supply of essentials such as lentils, beans, grains and canned goods, but also key building blocks of flavor. Dried mushrooms, homemade stocks (or bouillon cubes – I won’t judge), anchovies, tomato paste and fried shallots are my essentials.
The Burmese and Thai ways of eating prominently feature a caddy of condiments at the table for you to round out each dish and season it to your personal balance of salty-sweet-sour-spiciness. I love that practice and I think it’s so essential in teaching the diner to develop their own palate (and opinion!) about what counts as delicious. Inspired by this practice, I started to consciously consider the power of condiments in my meals. Depending on the cuisine, we’ve usually got a rotating cast of dried nori, sesame oil, fried shallots or finishing oils like this spicy scallion oil on our tablescape. Infused with the sweetness of alliums and heat of chili flakes – it’ll add another level of umami for your fried eggs, grain bowls and noodle soups.
Spicy Scallion Oil
(adapted from this recipe)
Makes about 1 cup
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (depends on your preference)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable/corn oil
1. Combine herbs, red pepper flakes in a heat-proof bowl and mix well.
2. Heat the oil in a small saucepan just until it starts to smoke (don’t forget to turn on the hood!).
3. Pour the hot oil over the herb mixture (be careful it will splatter)**, stir to mix and allow to cool before storing.
*Feel free to sub out some scallions with green garlic when they’re in season (like right now!).
**I like to place the bowl of herbs in an empty sink (away from any dripping faucets) for safety and easy clean-up.