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The Spicy Hot Oil of the Gods


The Spicy Hot Oil of the Gods
The Spicy Hot Oil of the Gods

Sometimes I discover a new cooking technique—a little trick, long-established but new to me—and it feels like I’ve landed on a new continent, where colors are twice as brilliant and my tongue possesses double the taste buds. Earlier this fall, I had such a moment of discovery when I picked up a bottle of Hot Sesame Oil.

Freshly home from two months in Mexico, my palette had become spice-dependent. I scoured Harvest’s shelves in search of new ways to add heat to my early-fall diet of garden-grown vegetables.

I’d long used regular toasted sesame oil in cooking, but I’d never fallen in love with its effect. Roland Hot Sesame Oil was different. It was a revelation.

The first dish I made was fried tofu. Simple, healthy, but never that terrifically satisfying. Fried in hot sesame oil—with some garlic, pepper, and a few dashes of Bragg Liquid Aminos—the tofu had this amazing heat and flavor, plus a freakishly perfect, slightly chewy golden skin. It was a fundamentally different food than any tofu I’d had before, but so easy.

Then, I sautéed greens—bok choi, chard, even collard greens—in the hot oil, with similarly delicious results. I fried eggplant in it. I added it to my Thai curries. I cooked my omelette mushrooms in it before adding them to the eggs. I went crazy with the hot oil. For a period of weeks, it found its way into almost every dish I made.

But then I started to have doubts. Maybe I’d been blinded by my excitement over a fun new ingredient? Maybe it wasn’t the hot oil that made my tofu so perfect and tasty, but something else—the right temperature, the Bragg, the copious amounts of garlic or some combination thereof.

Then I found myself at Fort Bragg’s excellent new restaurant, Franklin Street Café. I’d eaten there a couple of times, and had perfectly prepared scallops and the best flank steak I’ve ever—literally, ever—had, so I knew the food was good. But on this evening I had already eaten and I was there for a bit of live music, a glass of wine and a snack. I opted for the fried tofu. It was fine—attractive wedges of crispy soy—but without being doused in sauce, it was bland. It was the fried tofu I used to make.

And for me, that was confirmation enough. I’ve gone through two bottles in the past month.

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