Pesto doesn’t have to be exclusive to Italian cooking. It’s just a combination of nuts, oil, herbs and other ingredients, and it can be used in anything from a dipping sauce to a soup or a marinade. I took Asian versions of these ingredients and created a similarly balanced sauce that is distinctly Korean. It adds intensity and will elevate the flavours in your food. – Chef Bill Kim
Chef Bill Kim’s Korean Pesto
Yield: 1 cup
¼ cup Nuoc Cham Sauce (see below)
¼ cup Lemongrass Chili Sauce (see below)
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
¼ cup kimchi, homemade or store-bought
¼ cup dry-roasted peanuts
½ cup fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
¼ cup olive oil
1. Place the Nuoc Cham Sauce, Lemongrass Chili Sauce, chipotle chili and adobo sauce, kimchi, peanuts, basil and oil in a food processor and process for about 1 minute, until coarsely blended.
2. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. Alternatively, freeze in standard ice-cube trays, then transfer the cubes (about 2 tablespoons each) to plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 2 months.
Lemongrass Chili Sauce
Yield: 2¼ cups
The inspiration for this recipe came from a trip to Thailand I took a few years ago. Those sweet, spicy, citrusy flavours come right back to me every time I make it. You can use this sauce for braising chicken, or for making dipping sauces and glazes for fried appetisers, but I like it best for barbecue. It’s thick enough to cling to the meat, adds a good char from all the sugars that caramelise on the grill, and delivers the spicy, fresh flavours of Thailand.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
¼ cup minced lemongrass
1 cup sweet chili sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup sambal oelek
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1. Combine the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili sauce, fish sauce, sambal oelek and oil in a bowl and whisk until blended. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months (see note).
NOTE: This sauce won’t fully harden when frozen, so you can spoon out as much as you need whenever you want to use it.
Nuoc Cham Sauce
Yield: 1 cup
I learned about nuoc cham from Arun Sampanthavivat, whose Chicago restaurant, Arun’s, is considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the world. Nuoc cham, however, is actually Vietnamese. It’s a dipping sauce with big, bright flavours – tangy, funky, sour and sweet all at once. I add green Thai chilies to give it some heat and use it not only as a dipping sauce, but also as the base for marinades and dressings. This sauce is also a great foundation for things you wouldn’t consider very Asian, like my Korean pesto and even my pimento cheese dip.
¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
½ cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green Thai chilies, minced, with seeds
1. Combine the brown sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, water, garlic, and chilies in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves.
2. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. Or freeze in standard ice-cube trays, then transfer the cubes (2 tablespoons each) to plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 2 months.