We just call it “rooster paste.” Vietnamese in origin and similar to the Indonesian sambal oelek, this thick red sauce will add depth and spice to anything you’re making, from a salad dressing to a marinade to a stir-fry. Although you don’t have to be a five-alarm-food lover to appreciate it, bear in mind that even a quarter-teaspoon difference dramatically affects the heat of the dish. Experiment to see what works for you.
Chili-garlic sauce is available in many supermarkets’ “Oriental” sections (though we really wish they’d stop calling them that; aside from offending a lot of people, the word brings back disturbing memories of our childhood Chun King dinners). You can also get it at Asian markets. An 8-ounce jar costs about $2.