We all know that Chinese cuisine is strongly based in condiments – fish sauce, XO sauce, soy sauce etc. Today we`ll take a closer look to the condiment that give Chinese dishes that extra tanginess, and just the right kind of spice – chili oil.
Chili oil has various names in China. It is called 油泼辣子 (chili pepper splashed with oil) in Shaanxi province and 辣油 (spicy oil) or 红油 (red oil) in Sichuan province. Among those names the most popular one is 辣椒油 (chili pepper oil).
In China, chili oil is prepared basically by pouring hot vegetable oil slowly on chili pepper powder or chopped chili pepper. Many other ingredients can be added alongside to enrich flavor such as Chinese black vinegar, minced garlic, dried ginger skin, sesame seeds, sesame oil, Sichuan peppercorn, cinnamon, star anise and bay leaf. There are also many derivative condiments from chili oil, one of which is Lao Gan Ma that is produced from chili oil and Douchi (豆豉, fermented black soybeans).
One singularly important ingredient, chili oil, is the foundation of many Sichuan dishes. Chili oil can make or break a dish. Although commercially produced and available in Asian markets, homemade chili oil offers a far superior flavor and is a worthwhile endeavor for the serious Chinese cook.
To make Sichuan chili oil you first infuse various spices in vegetable oil and then pour the infusion over crushed and powdered chili peppers. The oil is left to soak for at least twenty-four hours at which point it will have attained the characteristic spicy heat.
Armed with this delicious and complex oil you can create authentic and sophisticated Sichuan dishes that will make your friends envious. So, definitely make your own chili oil from scratch and you`ll never go back to the store version.
- 270 ml of oil
- 2 tsp red chili flakes
- 2-3 dried whole red chilies (tip: handle with gloves or tongs)
- Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chili flakes and whole chilies to oil. Cook, stirring, until chilies start to gently sizzle, about 1 min. *If they begin to brown you will have to start over.
- Add remaining oil to pot. Heat until oil is warmed through, but not too hot to touch. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Store oil in an airtight bottle or jar. Shake occasionally to disperse the chilies.
And that`s it – you can add it to any dish of your choice!