spicy with flavor?

Joined Jan 9, 2002
My husband and I are BIG fans of spicy food- I mean really spciy, make your nose run and your eyes water and your forehead sweat kind of spicy.

But often, when attempting to "doctor" our foodstuffs to make it spicier (chili, sausage, you name it) we end up with something that has a lot of fire and burn, but very little flavor. By the same token, we can make things with plenty of flavor, yet they don't turn out as spicy and zingy as we like.

Any suggestions on how to harmoniously combine the two, so we have flavor AND fire?
Joined May 26, 2001
What sort of add-ins are you trying? And when are you adding them? It's possible that adding some things after the fact will make you sweat but not give you flavor, and vice versa. Or cooking too long might reduce either effect.

Scotch bonnets and habaneros have a very distinctive flavor, and a huge Scoville number. Have you tried them? and what about freshly ground black pepper?
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Hi, roon,

How about giving some examples of what you're making? I think it's a matter of combining the heat with the spice combo and other ingredients. For example, the perfume from Indian food comes from the heat the chiles put out, plus the combo of spices and seasonings used in the dish. The same in Mexico, the best example being a 'mole nego', which can have over 35 ingredients in it! Usually 4-5 different kinds of dried chiles, each with their own unique flavor, then overlaying that with spices and chocolate, and dry-roasted tomatoes, onions, and garlic! Mole made like this is a total mind-immersion exercise, and usually takes me two days to make!

Also, re the heat level - if you're using fresh chiles, keep in mind that while each chile is generally rated on the Scoville scale as to its hotness, factors like weather and if it's a summer chile or a winter chile, or where it's grown can determine its heat level; I've had jalepenos that tasted like green bell peppers, and poblano peppers (supposedly very mild) that knocked my socks off!

I would suggest getting and reading some cookbooks of regional cuisines known for their spiciness; i.e., Mexico, Thailand, India - the library is a great source. Look at the way the spices and chiles are combined to complement each other, then go from there. Just adding heat to any old dish to 'kick it up' doesn't usually work, as the heat has to blend with the other flavors of the dish. I've found that studying the regional cuisines has given me a good handle and jumping off place from which to experiment.

Id be glad to share recipes - let me know what you're interest in!:lips:
Joined Aug 10, 2001
Roon, I use this stuff called da bomb, or dave's insanity sauce. This stuff is so hot it has a warning on the bottle. Daves insanity says "Warning, keep away from eyes pets and children, exellent ingredient for sauces soups and stews, also strips wax floors and removes driveway grease stains" and da bomb is just a little hotter, (119, 000 scu) but if you only use 2 mm of the end of a fork's tong (just one tong) its usually perfect. Since there is no flavour to take over, it gives pure heat. Now, i usualy use it just before eating on my own plate, and be sure to mix it well.

marmalady, I don't know about anybody else, but anything that has up to 35 ingredients and takes multiple days to make MUST be great, or ppl just wouldn't do it. I am quite interested in this recipe since I don't know what mole is or how to pronounce it. Is it mo-lay or just like the animal, mole?
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Okay, Chouxy, You ASKED FOR IT!!! The word is mo-lay, from teh Aztec word for sauce, 'molli. Maybe not quite 35, but close!

4 oz. dried ancho chiles
4 oz. dried guajillo chiles
4 oz. dried chile mulato
2 oz. dried chile chipotle
2 stale corn tortilla
1/3 cup pecans
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 medium unpeeled onions
1 large ripe tomato
4 oz. tomatillos, with husks
2/3 cup sesame seeds
7 T. lard (or vegetable shortening)
1 6-inch piece of canela (cassia - or Ceylon cinnamon)
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dry Mexican oregano
1 tsp. dry epazote or dried tarragon
6 whole cloves
10 allspice berries
1/4 tsp. grated fresh nutmeg
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 cup dark raisins
2-4 cups chicken stock
1 cup orange juice
1T sherry vinegar
2 tsp. espresso powder
4 oz. piece of Mexican chocolate

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles - USE GLOVES if you're not used to handling chiles!!!! Toast the chiles on a dry skillet or flat griddle til they start to release their aroma. Place the toasted chiles in a food process, and process til finely ground. Set aside.

Roast the garlic, tomato, onion, and tomatillo on a dry skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, till outsides are black and charred; note, start the longer cooking veg earlier, onion, garlic; tomatoes and tomatillos don't take as much time. Remove and place in separate bowls til cool enough to handle, then peel the husks/skins; save all juices from tomatoes and tomatillos.

Heat the sesame seeds in a small dry skillet til aromatic, remove and set aside to cool. Heat the raisins til just puffy, and remove and set aside.

Heat 1T lard/shortening in a skillet, and add all the spices; fry til fragrant, stirring constantly. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Place the nuts, sesame seed, raisins and chiles in a blender, and blend to a smooth paste. Use a little of the chicken stock if needed. Remove from blender. Next, place the fried spices, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and tomatillos in the blender and puree. Combine the two mixtures in a large bowl.

In a large dutch oven, heat the lard/shortening over medium high heat; add all the pureed mixtures, and lower heat to medium low; cover and cook, stirring frequently. Add the rest of the liquid ingredients (except the chicken stock), the chocolate, and the corn tortillas which have been ripped up. If the mixture is very thick, add some chicken stock; but it should be a thick mixture. The mole can be frozen in batches if you like, to be thinned out and used as a sauce.

To all of you purists out there, please remember that this recipe has been adapted from a few sources! Zarela Martinez, Patricia Trilling, Rick Bayless, and Don Pintabona all contributed!

A great source for mexican ingredients is www.thecmccompany.com

This is the 'king' of the mole sauces; there are others which are much simpler!

Toast the nuts on a baking sheet in the oven til golden brown.
Joined Jan 9, 2002
Wow!! That looks really amazing, I will have to try making that!

Usually, the spicy foods we make here consist of chili and fried potatoes. Crushed red pepper is our favorite spice, because you can use quite a bit of it before it overpowers the flavor of the food. We have found that cooking the crushed red pepper at the very beginning (while sauteeing onions, etc.) generates the best heat.

Chouxbacca, I've had something similar to that! It was called "***** in Antarctica". At the hot sauce store, they have these little tiny spoons so you can taste the hot sauces and see what you like- with this one, they bring out a toothpick!! It was like you said- straight heat, so you couldn't use too much or your food would have no flavor- only heat.

I haven't tried much with fresh peppers yet- hmmmm. I'll have to try that.
Joined Oct 13, 2001
marmalady , great molli recipe . Look at the blend of spices . The trick to flavor with just the right heat has been mentioned . The right blend at the right time in the cooking process . Enjoy the fire but get the taste . Of course thats just my opinion..........
Joined Jan 3, 2002
This sauce is simple to make, and provides a nice flavor without too much heat, providing you ue it sparingly.

Cook 5 habanero chiles until the meat is tender. I usually steam mine.
Halve the chiles and remove the stem and seeds.
In a blender, mix the chile meat, a minced clove o garlic, a pinch or two of salt, and about 1/2 cup water.
Add more water if the sauce is too thick for your liking.

This is great in soups such as fideo. I use about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon per bowl.
Joined Feb 2, 2002
Hi Chef:

Flavor, & Spice????

There are many ways to get both!!!
But as some of the other chefs said...."it depends on what you are trying to achieve".

A Few Ideas:

Vary the types of chilies, both hot & mild.

Roasting chilies helps mellow the heat, and changes the flavor.

Some chilies are added whole at the end of cooking in a sauce to add flavor and some heat....but not to be eaten. Some Chinese dishes are like this.

Mexican, or Southwestern dishes. Try using chipotles, to get some of your heat plus a real smoky flavor.

I will cook some stews with Anaheim chiles that have been seared, or roasted early in the cooking process, and finish with some type of clean red chilie sauce. Example "Grace" a Jamaican red chilie sauce that has decent strong heat, but is real clean tasting. There are lots of other sauces that will do the same.

If you are using sausage in a dish. Vary the types. I made a meat sauce the other day for pasta, but added Greek Olive, and Artichoke sausage to the dish, with a hot Italian variety.
Lots of garlic, caramelized onions, & Fire Roasted Plum Tomatoes, mushrooms, then finished the dish with a red chilie sauce, & a small amount of Cream.
There were other ingredients, but I am just trying to give you ideas of how different flavors can work.

A good example is a Vietnamese "Pho" (soup broth made with rock sugar, star anise, etc...) often you will get side sauces, etc.. to add to the dish, such as: sweet ginger with fish sauce.
Fresh basil, & beans sprouts, different types of chilie sauces...so you can mix & match in order to get the right flavor for you.
I use this example because everything is not about heat alone.
There can be lots of different types of flavors working together, and many will come from herbs & spices.....sweet & Sours....hot & salty.....sweet & Smoky......savory herbs & sweet herbs.....

I do not believe that dishes are better because you add lots of items together. I was taught many years ago that the more items you add to a dish, the better chance that you "muddy the flavors", and destroy the dish. Care needs to be taken to combine ingredients that go together, and in the right quantities, and at the right time. This comes from an understanding of the cuisine, and not going in too many directions at once.

Some of the best chefs at doing this are Indian cooks. To be able to make such varied dishes all taste different, using more spices than you will see in any other cuisine. I would love to spend a week or two working in a good Indian restaurant, to see how they make sauces.

Just remember.....it takes time, and there is some trial & error involved. Good Luck!!!

Hope this helps,

Chef Nosko
A Fresh Endeavor
Boston, MA
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