Fermented Pepper Rings and Chili Paste

It’s easy to forget the magic that lactic fermentation imbues upon some of our favorite foods. In particular, a wide variety of condiments are transformed through the alchemy of fermentation. Sriracha hot sauce? Fermented. Tabasco? Fermented (for years). Soy sauce, fish sauce, many types of chili paste? All fermented. When you start looking at the various sauces and pickles we love, you soon realize that most have their roots firmly grounded in the world of preservation and fermentation.

Jalepeno slices and chili paste ready to be transformed through fermentation.

Jalapeno slices and chili paste ready to be transformed through fermentation. Modifying mason jars with rubber grommets and airlocks is a cheap and easy way to prevent any undesired growth in your ferment.

Chilies are an excellent candidate to preserve via fermentation. As summer starts to become a memory and fall begins to whisper in our ears, the local NYC farmers markets begin to be filled with a variety of locally grown chilies. I’m a major fan of hot food, so my natural inclination is to capture as many of these fresh chilies as possible and preserve them for use throughout the winter. Chili paste and fermented jalepeno slices are an excellent means to do this.

Fermented Chili Paste

My chili paste consists of a blend of jalepenos, serranos, poblanos, and habaneros. Striking the right blend is key to obtaining your preferred heat level.

My chili paste consists of a blend of jalapenos, serranos, poblanos, and habaneros. Striking the right blend is key to obtaining your preferred heat level.

Fermented chili paste is not only a great condiment, but also a versatile addition to many recipes. It’s great because you can make it with any blend of peppers you wish, resulting in either a fruity/tangy sauce, or one that will burn off your taste buds. I ended up shooting for something in between the two. Using a blend of sweet and hot peppers will strike a nice balance. There really is no right or wrong blend. I like to add an entire head of garlic to the mix for a nice garlicky kick. Really the only rule I stick to is to include 2% by weight kosher salt. For example, if I have 500 grams of raw chopped up peppers, I’ll include 10 grams of kosher salt in the mix. This level of salt is key to encouraging good bacteria growth while inhibiting molds or other undesired microbiological activity.

 Fermented Jalapeno Slices

Another great way to preserve chilies is fermenting slices in a brine solution. The recipe couldn’t be easier. For this batch I sliced enough jalapenos to pack a pint sized mason jar to the brim. I then topped the jar with a brine solution consisting of filtered water and 5-6% by weight kosher salt. The mason jar was fitted with a lid and airlock and allowed to ferment for approximately a week. Again, taste should be your guide. Once the peppers fit your taste, refrigerator to slow further fermentation.

The pepper rings will take on a lovely tart acidic quality as well as some earthy funk. Texturally they retain a nice snap and are a great topping to many dishes.

A Few Words About Safety

  1. Smell and looks should be your guide. I don’t eat anything that grows mold or smells off.
  2. Wear gloves when handling chilies. The oils can and will burn you.
  3. Be careful when sealing ferments. Fermentation can produce CO2 gas. If this builds up in a sealed container, it can result in dangerous levels of pressure, which can cause vessels to burst. Frequently vent any sealed ferments, or ferment with an airlock.

Ramen! (Pork Based)


Scratch Made Ramen

Ramen is a (really) big deal in Japan. The packages of dried noodles and seasoning familiar to most Americans is a staple in college dorm rooms and something I’ll occasionally eat for a quick lunch, but can’t hold a flame to ramen featuring lovingly prepared broth, springy alkaline noodles, and fresh toppings. Both iterations may share a similar heritage, but the differences between the two are night and day.

A few weeks ago I had a delicious bowl of ramen from Ganso in Brooklyn. I hadn’t had good ramen in quite awhile and it inspired me to make my own. I did some research and came up with a plan to execute a delicious bowl of ramen.

The soup base is a modified version of David Chang’s ramen broth from Momofuku Noodle Bar. My version is simila–combining kombu (dried kelp), dried shiitake mushrooms, roasted pork neck bones, and aromatic vegetables (shallot, green onion), while omitting the chicken that Chang uses. The cooking process is staged over a long period and best prepared a day in advance. For those looking to recreate this, you can read about the process here. After cooking, the broth is further seasoned with soy, mirin, a small amount of the pork belly braising liquid, and a splash of rice vinegar.

Nori, Braised Pork Belly, Pickled Shiitake, Ajitsuke Tamago (Marinated Soft Boiled Egg), Green Onion, and Kamaboko (Fish Cake)

Braised Pork Belly
The braised pork belly was created using this recipe. Again, this is best prepared a day in advance in order to allow the pork to marinate in its own braising liquid for a day. This results in a succulent, sweet and salty topping for your soup.

Ajitsuke Tamago (Marinated Soft Boiled Egg)
The eggs were soft boiled (time dependent on egg size and boil vigor) and then left to marinade in a 1:1 combination of soy and sake which was sweetened to taste with sugar. 3-4 hours seems to be a sweet spot to ensure the whites of the eggs are well seasoned without going over-board on saltiness.

Pickled Shiitakes
Also inspired by David Chang, the reconstituted shiitakes were pulled from the stock and then cooked in a pan with a mixture of soy, balsamic vinegar, and mirin as well as a few chunks of sliced ginger. They were then put into a container and left overnight to pickle.

All of the other toppings were bought prepared from an Asian grocery store, sliced, and then used to top the soup.

But, what about the noodles? Frankly, the noodles I used were a disappointment. I went to a well-stocked Chinese grocery store, which unfortunately had a rather disappointing selection of dried ramen noodles. Ideally, you can source fresh alkaline noodles to use in the soup. I am still working on sourcing a good manufactured noodle in NYC. I suppose I could make my own noodles. Maybe someday…


The Final Product – Worth the Effort