9 articles Articles posted in sauces

Food Matchmaking: French Fries Love Gravy

Yes, I know it’s still June, and we’re highlighting lavender this month. But it’s also Canada Day this Sunday and Fourth of July shortly after, and so I wanted to squeeze this post in before it’s too late. :)

I have very fond childhood memories of getting fries and gravy with my friends at the corner store across the street from my elementary school in Toronto. I remember that warm, thick, salty gravy covering those starchy fries. I have to say, it completely befuddles me why fries with gravy is not more popular this side (that would be south) of the border. A quick little search reveals it to be common in pockets around the country, like upstate New York and Baltimore. But for the most part it seems to be a foreign (and often unappealing) concept to many folks here, who, quite frankly, are missing out.

Disbelievers might point out that the gravy will turn the fries soggy at some point. This is true, but it’s the same idea as chili or melted cheese over fries. And I have to say I actually quite enjoy that gradual progression of gravy melding into the fries because it is good every step of the way. You start with the integrity of both crispy fries and hot gravy, and as you slowly work your way through the pile, the fries start getting soaked in gravy goodness, and finally, you end with your fingers covered in both potato and gravy, and that, my friends, may just be the best part of all.

Of course, fries and gravy are best known in the classic French-Canadian dish poutine, in which fresh, squeaky cheese curds are also an essential ingredient. In the United States, a version known as Disco fries with melted mozzarella is apparently served in New Jersey diners (I know it’s terribly un-Canadian, but I may just prefer the gooey melted cheese version of poutine over the cheese curds). Related are the gravy cheese fries served in some American diners.

Whichever you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Canada or Independence Day!

Photos from here and here.

Food Matchmaking: Gravy Loves Coffee

I’ve become a bit of a coffee lover the last few years (thanks to a friend who gave me my first bag of Stumptown coffee beans… which was also my introduction to freshly ground beans and, later, the French press), but I still don’t often find myself cooking with it. Not long ago, I came across a recipe for roast beef–another classic dish I’ve never made and keep meaning to try–that is served with a coffee gravy. That piqued my interest, and I was further surprised to discover it to be a classic sauce in Southern cooking known as red-eye gravy. Well, now I am sufficiently intrigued, and I’m hoping to give both roast beef and coffee gravy a try in the not-too-distant future.

Have you ever tried coffee gravy? Do you make roast beef often in your home? If so, I would love some pointers before I make my first attempt!

Photos from here and here.

Food Matchmaking: Guava Loves Chili Salt

I love the fruit stands in SE Asia where you can buy cut fruit that often comes with a little package of chili salt. In my family, guava is one of those fruits we always eat with chili salt. But chili salt is basically great with any fruit that’s a bit tart, like green mango, pineapple, or grapefruit. My mom always told me that adding a bit of salt to any fruit that’s sour would bring out its natural sweetness. Or maybe spicy, sour, and salty is just the SE Asian sweet. :) When we lived in Arizona, we noticed that Mexican road stands also sold mango with chili salt, so there has to be something to it, right?

Images from here and here.

Red Boat Fish Sauce from Phu Quoc

A couple years ago, I set out on a quest to learn what makes Phu Quoc fish sauce so legendary. I also realized in the process how difficult it is to find authentic fish sauce made in Phu Quoc here. Since then, an exciting new fish sauce brand has come onto the market.

Red Boat Fish Sauce is based out of a family-owned factory in Phu Quoc and uses the traditional fermentation process to make its product. The company contacted me several months ago about trying out a free sample, and I’m happy to have great things to report here.

Upon receiving my free sample, I immediately noticed a few differences between Red Boat and my regular fish sauce brand (Flying Lion) that’s more readily available at grocery stores. First, Red Boat fish sauce is noticeably redder in color and clearer, which suggests a purer product. Next, I was pleased to see that the only ingredients in this fish sauce are anchovies and salt. And finally, it is nice to know that this stuff actually comes from Phu Quoc, as opposed to the brands that loudly proclaim the Phu Quoc name but are actually manufactured elsewhere.

Red Boat is noticeably different in taste as well. The fish sauce is definitely sweeter and rounder in flavor, and it’s not as aggressively salty as some of the other fish sauce brands. [Edit: I should clarify that by “sweet” I don’t mean sugar-sweet; more like umami-sweet.]

Red Boat on left; Flying Lion on right. The left was redder in person; the right, more amber.

What I love about Red Boat is that it is an artisanal product. The makers have taken care to follow traditional methods of fish sauce making — only ca com, the black anchovy found in Phu Quoc’s surrounding waters, is used; the fish are salted immediately after they are caught at sea; the fish are fermented for a year; and only wooden barrels are used. All of this contributes to Red Boat’s refined taste.

Red Boat impressively offers fish sauce available at 50°N — the highest number I’ve ever seen. (N refers to nitrogen, and the higher number indicates a higher amount of protein in the content, which means it’s more concentrated.)

I also like the packaging. It’s clean, fun, modern, and looks like they put some time and thought into how to present the product.

Red Boat fish sauce is pricier than other brands. A 500-ml bottle of fish sauce at 40°N costs $10. (Flying Lion costs $2.90 on Amazon.) But this isn’t unreasonable for an artisanal item. I reserve Red Boat for dipping and use other brands for cooking.

I’ve seen Red Boat Fish Sauce available at the Vietnamese grocery store at the Eden Center in Falls Church, VA, so you might be able to find it at your local Asian grocery store too. It can also be ordered at the Red Boat online shop.

Disclaimer: I received 2 free samples of Red Boat fish sauce without any obligations to review or promote. Opinions in this post are my own.