There are about as many variations of chili garlic paste as there are countries where chilies are grown. In Thai cuisine, it's siracha. In malaysian, it's sambal. Despite prolific examples throughout Asia, there are also versions popular from around the world.
In northern Africa, harissa takes top honors as a spicy, savory, complex addition to anything from stews, to roasted lamb, to vegetable dishes, such as Ajlouk Qura'a, or Tunisian mashed zucchini salad.
While harissa is increasingly difficult to find in central Indiana, it's super simple to make. It stores well and would make good gifts...just be sure to warn the person to which you give it that it is HOT, HOT, HOT.
3-4 garlic cloves
12 fresh or dried red chilis
1 red bell pepper
1 T. coriander seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds
4-6 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
lemon juice, to taste
With blade running, drop garlic through the chute of a food processor. Add peppers and run until well chopped. Toast whole seeds over medium heat in a dry pan, then grind finely in a spice grinder. Add spices to peppers and garlic, pulsing a few times to combine.
With blade running again, pour olive oil through the chute slowly. Allow to process until paste reaches a uniform consistency and no large chunks of peppers and garlic remain. Add salt and lemon juice, tasting and adjusting for seasoning.
For more info: contact Keri, the Part Time Chef, at firstname.lastname@example.org.