Despite their cute looks, the spiciness of island hot peppers is really intense. I introduced some popular island hot pepper condiments in my last article.
I had a chance to meet Takeshi who lives in Takae, Higashi Village at a farewell party. At that time, he showed me his own hot pepper oil “Takeshi oil” and he let me taste it.
My reaction? “What’s this? It’s really hot but really tasty!”
Then, I asked him, “what are the ingredients?”
“It contains oil, garlic, salt and island hot peppers,” he said. “You can add soy sauce if you want. One thing though: you can’t touch your eyes while you’re preparing it.”
Hmmm... I have seen island hot peppers at markets but always hesitated to buy them. Okay: I’ll give making my own oil a try!
And so, I purchased my jars. Using two different kinds of oil, I immersed my island peppers, salt from Hamahiga Island and local garlic in oil, I added rosemary to another and so tried my hand at two simple kinds.
I used rapeseed oil for the jar on the left in the picture and olive oil for the one with the rosemary.
It is interesting to see the differences between the two kinds of oil.
Now all I had to do was let the two jars sit for over a month. And so, I didn’t touch them.
According to Takeshi, the trick to leaving the oil jars alone is to forget about them. I knew I couldn’t forget, but I anticipated this and made them just before leaving for the New Years holiday.
A month passed and it was finally time! Once I opened the jar, the aroma of garlic wafted up from the jar.
I had gotten some tasting advice from Takeshi.
“You may want to just use a toothpick to test the flavor,” he had said. “Don’t use a spoon – that’s dangerous!”
As I was remembering the conversation with him, I dipped a toothpick into the one without rosemary and tasted it.
It wasn’t too bad at first. But, soon, I felt the heat spread across my tongue.
But the heat was not the fire-breathing kind.
The combination of mild rapeseed oil and the flavorful hot peppers was just perfect after a one-month soaking. This oil will go well with almost any dish.
For my rosemary oil, the blending of olive oil, garlic and rosemary were nice and rich. But I think I put too many hot peppers because it turned out to be extremely spicy…. I’m thinking it will be great on pizza or pasta dishes.
What the heck! I decided to try my oil out with food. Luckily I was sort of hungry and there was a taco place nearby.
Oil made with island hot peppers couldn’t possibly be bad with Okinawan soul food like tacos.
The lovely aroma of garlic and oil and the moderate heat made my taco tastier.
I know this oil is going to be added to my family’s favorites. You can use it with sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce and whatever else you want. It is very handy.
If you find these cute red island hot peppers, you may want to make your own oil.
Takeshi’s oil recipe provided by Takeshi Ishihara
Shot glasses: Sakae Matsumoto
Ceramics: Tatsuya Morinaga