Spice Up Your Winter – Hot Chili Oil (辣椒油)
Hot chili oil is compound oil that’s widely used in many Chinese dishes across all regions. This chili infused oil is usually used as cooking ingredient or a dressing. In regions such as Sichuan, Hunan, and Yunnan where hot and spicy food is dominant, hot chili oil is used very extensive and almost every family makes their own hot chili oil. It really adds a nice kick to whatever you are cooking, especially in this cold winter weather.
When I grew up in Chongqing, then part of the Sichuan province, my parents always conveniently kept a big jar of homemade chili oil on our dining table. To me, chili oil was more than just a condiment but a magic potion that could turn ordinary food to extraordinary. Nowadays, the hot chili oil is sold commercially everywhere under various brands. In the States, you can find it in Asian supermarkets or specialty stores for about 3 USD per jar. Despite the commercial availability I still stock up my own homemade chili oil. Why? Because it is easy to make, it is of better taste, and most importantly it’s totally MSG and additives free
In this recipe I’ll also share a common technique used in Chinese cooking called Oil Splashing. As seen in this Chinese steamed fish, the oil splashing technique is used to infuse and stimulate oil flavors from other ingredients. Compared to the most basic recpe where you just combine the hot oil and chili, this what I call enhanced basic chili oil recipe provides more flavors extracted from fresh ingredients such as scallions and dry spice such as anise star. If occasion calls I’d write about some of the more complicated versions.
By the way, be prepared to sneeze a lot if your nose is sensitive to peppery smells. A medical mask might become handy. If you want to put the chili oil in use right away, consider making this Sichuan classic dish.
[stextbox id=”info” bgcolor=”9fdfd9″]Ingredients (yields 1 cup of chili oil)
1 cup Cooking oil
2-3 tbsp Crushed dry chili or chili powder (can mix in different types of chilies)
1 Star anise
1 sliced Onion
2 clove Garlic
½ tsp sesame seeds[/stextbox]
1. Heat up the oil in small pot over medium heat and until its starts to smoke. Turn the heat to low and slowly add scallion, onion, garlic, and star anise. Let the oil simmer the ingredients in low heat for about 15 minutes. The temperature plays a key factor in this recipe. Try to keep the temperature around 200 F so you won’t burn the fresh ingredients too quickly.
2. Discard all the dry ingredients except the anise star. They should be all dried up and slightly burned. Filter out any floating impurities you see. Reheat the oil until you see smoke again. Around 275 F.
3. Evenly lay the crushed chilies on the bottom of a bowl. Be sure the bowl is big enough to hold one cup of liquid plus extra room for bubbles.
4. Slowly pour 1/3 of hot oil to the bowl while you stir it with a spoon. You’ll get a lot sizzle coming to your face. Mix well and it should come out like a chili paste.
5. Pour another 1/3 of hot oil to the bowl. Mix it by stirring it. This time you should be able to smell the aroma from the sizzle.
6. Repeat the above process one more time. Add sesame seeds at the end. Let the chili oil sit for about onehour to let hot oil fully integrate the favor with chilies.[nggallery id=62][/stextbox]
*Tips: depending on your preference, you can discard the chilies by straining through a mesh strainer. Or you can keep the chilies in there like what I do every time. It can be used almost immediately however it would have a better flavor the next day.