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Chili paste with garlic (Recipe: rotini with spicy meat sauce)

Updated October 2010.

Rotini with spicy meat sauce

True confession: even The Perfect Pantry runs out of things from time to time. When it happens, I usually do one of two things — substitute, or compensate (by making sure I never ever run out of that particular thing again...which is why I have four jars of peanut butter and three large bottles of white vinegar in my cupboard). When I run out of chili paste with garlic, I do something else: I panic!

Fiery hot, made of mashed chile peppers, salt, soybean oil and garlic, chili paste with garlic forms the basis of my fundamental stir-fry sauce, called

LYDIA'S SPICY TRINITY (named after the famous Cajun trinity: onion, celery and bell pepper):

3 parts Kikkoman reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 parts oyster-flavored sauce
1 part chili paste with garlic

With the Spicy Trinity on hand, you can stir-fry anything — tofu, veggies, chicken, noodles, shoe leather — and it will taste like the world's best street food. Chili paste with garlic also features in the nuoc cham I make for dipping Vietnamese salad rolls.

Lan Chi chili paste with garlic, my absolute favorite.

This pantry item might be hard to find in the grocery store, but it's available in every Chinese or Asian market. In a pinch, substitute sambal oelek and add garlic mashed with kosher salt.

Rotini with spicy meat sauce

Rotini with spicy meat sauce

Serves 6.


1 lb rotini or other twisty pasta
1 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced, or 3-4 scallions, sliced
1 8-oz can mushroom stems and pieces
6 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
4 Tbsp oyster-flavored sauce
2 Tbsp chili paste with garlic, or less (to taste)


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Heat a wok over medium-high heat, and add ground beef. Cook, stirring constantly, until the beef is broken up, thoroughly browned, and has given off its fat. Add onion and mushrooms, and continue to stir fry until onion is translucent. Add sauces and chili paste, and stir to combine. Add pasta to the wok, and toss until almost all of the liquid in the sauce has been absorbed and the pasta is coated completely with the sauce, 1-2 minutes. Add pasta water if needed, one tablespoon at a time. Serve hot.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Spicy chicken balls
Spicy Asian grilled chicken and pasta salad
Thai beef salad
Chile-lime-ponzu chicken
Kartoom croquettes

Other recipes that use chili paste with garlic:
Drunken chili-lime-sherry shrimp with garlic, scallions, sweet peppers and ramen noodles, from Cooking... by the seat of my Pants!
Pork with green beans and basil, from Kitchen Chick
Spicy mayo, from Grow. Cook. Eat.
Spicy lentil salad, from The Omnivore's Solution
Spicy sweet chicken, from Blue Kitchen

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


My husband loves chili paste with garlic and uses it for everything...including subsitute for mayo in sandwiches.
Your recipes will be a welcome change....thanks!!

I don't know if I've graduated to this "heat" yet. I'm just going to have to buy some and try it.

I saw this in Whole Foods this morning and bought it. Can't wait to give it a try.

Patrick, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. It's good to know that Whole Foods has this ingredient. Next week I'm posting another recipe that uses chili paste with garlic, so you'll be all set. Please share your recipes as you experiment!

I made the "Rotini with spicy meat sauce" and it was delicious. It's the first time I've used chili paste with garlic and I used the whole amount called for in the recipe. My husband loved it and said the dish was addicting. Great leftover, too.

Debbie, I'm so glad you liked the rotini! It's one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.

My chili is too spici hot my husband is unable to eat to much spici food and I made my chili with too many hot peppers. What can I do? Need help immediately as it is on the stove. So very grateful for any and all help. MARNY

Marny, make something else for your husband! There's not much you can do to tone down something that's too spicy, except to eat it with plain steamed rice or bread, or add a potato to try and absorb some of the spice, and drink milk (yes, it sounds strange, but it balances the heat of the peppers). You can put out the fire in your mouth, but it's hard to dilute the heat in a dish once it's cooked.

I want to purchase chili garlic paste. Where can I purchase it?

Hope someone reads this: Do you NOT drain off the fat from the ground beef?! Or DO you? Please clarify, directions are directions.

Joe, if you use extra-lean beef as specified in the recipe, you will not need to drain off the fat. When that extra step is required, I will always include it in the recipe.

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