In addition to springrolls, these sauces have been hits as dips for fried won-ton, grilled and wok-seared fish and poultry, and our house-cured beef, lamb, and pork. For dieters faced with an eternity of cold poached chicken breast, a dip dish of one of these sauces is a lifesaver.
Tools for Grinding your Own Spices
Once you are hooked on the idea of grinding your own spices, the obvious question of tools arises.
mortar and pestle is one possibility. Lyric, aerobic, and inexpensive, it is the fountain pen of the kitchen, something that imbues a cook with a feeling of artistry. For grinding small amounts of tiny spices, like the Szechwan peppercorns in Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt, it is a good tool.
spice grinder is more versatile, making up in speed and efficiency what it lacks in poetic appeal. It can easily handle the pods of star anise in China Moon Ten-Spice and will happily whirl to smithereens the stick cinnamon in China Moon Curry Powder. A spice grinder should be sturdy so don’t fall for a svelte model before asking a knowledgeable kitchenware salesperson if its muscle equals its chic. Remember, also, with a spice grinder, to fill it only half full; the spices need to whirl around freely to achieve an even grind. When cleaning, use only a faintly damp cloth, then follow with a very careful dry wipe. Store the grinder with its top off and exposed to the air, lest last week’s pepper-salt perfumes this month’s ten-spice.
coffee grinder can be called into service as an occasional spice grinder. Wipe and air it as above before and after it has done its duty. Pay special attention to the initial cleaning on account of the coffee bean oils. If you are about to become a homemade spice maven, you will want a separate spice grinder, but for the let-me-try-it-and-see cook, this staves off an additional purchase.
food processor outfitted with a very sharp steel knife will work wonders with smaller spices like Szechwan peppercorns. I don’t like it for grinding bulkier spices (like star anise or cinnamon) because they can catch on the blade and lift it off the stem. However, if this is all you’ve got, you can first bash the larger spices with a mallet to make them behave better in the workbowl.
blender is sometimes posed as an alternative spice grinder, but it has never worked well for me. I confess I have never lived with one and identify it mostly with the ghastly wheat germ milkshakes my mother would whip up to stony silence in her Adelle Davis years. Yet, if you love your blender, by all means try it for our recipes.