Roasted chile paste
Note: recipe adapted from “Vietnamese Home Cooking” by Charles Phan.
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon annatto seeds
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup finely minced garlic (about 8 cloves)
1/4 cup red pepper flakes
1/3 cup ground bean paste
2 tablespoons rice wine
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1. Combine the peppercorns and annatto seeds in a spice grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) and grind coarsely. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the shallots and oil over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes, until the shallots are light gold. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes longer, until the garlic and shallots are lightly browned.
3. Stir in the red pepper flakes and the peppercorn-annatto mixture, mixing well. Add the ground bean paste, wine, sugar and soy sauce, and continue cooking, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. This makes about 1½ cups of paste. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 3 months.