Friday, March 20, 2015

Make Your Own Chili Oil


If talking about chili oils and sauces made your tongue wag, then today's recipe is for you! Growing up, every Sichuan household I knew made their own chili oil. This is something true even to this day; in fact, the quality of someone's homemade chili oil is a glimpse into how good their home cooking is. A good chili oil is superbly aromatic and delightfully spicy.

The quality of chili oil is mainly dependent upon the quality of the chilis used. If you have the good fortune of living near a well-stocked Asian supermarket, you may be able to find good ground dried chilis. The ground dried chilis I'm talking about here is more of like chili flakes, it's not chili powder, so what you want to see are chili flakes and seeds. In where I live, I've only been able to find these in the Chinese grocery store.

[chili powder (left) vs. ground dried chilis, flakes (right)]
If you really have trouble finding this, a good alternative is to buy whole dried red chilis and chop it up yourself in a food processor. Another option--though I've never tried this myself--is to use the American kind of chili flakes (the kind you sprinkle on pizza, pasta, etc.) I imagine it just might do the job.


I use vegetable oil because it's fairly plain in taste and aroma, unlike olive oil. This allows it to be a good medium for the chilis to shine.

There's also some optional ingredients you can add to your chili oil to bring in even more flavors, such as garlic or peanuts. These definitely can make your chili oil even more flavorful and aromatic, so feel free to experiment. Although sometimes a good old plain chili oil is all you want and need.

Ingredients:

1 half-pint mason jar (or any glass or ceramic container, do not use plastic containers)
1/2 cup ground dried chilis
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Optional:
1 garlic clove, minced
a few peanuts
pinch of salt
pinch of sesame seeds

Instructions:

1. Place ground dried chilis in the mason jar, along with any of the optional ingredients you want to include.



2. Heat oil in a small pot over medium heat for approx. 5-7 minutes, until you see slight swirling movement in the oil. Do not over heat the oil or else it will burn the chilis. If the oil starts smoking, it is too hot, take it off the heat to let it cool down a little.

3. Once the oil is ready, prepare to add it to the jar of ingredients. First, place the jar in a shallow bowl to container any accidental spills. Then carefully and slowly pour the oil into the jar. The ingredients should immediately sizzle and create a boiling/foaming action.



4. Let the jar of oil cool down completely. Do not try to expedite the cooling by placing it in cold water, the extreme flux in temperature will cause the jar to crack and shatter!

5. Once cooled, you now have a jar of chili oil ready for use! You can store it in a cool location like your pantry or in the fridge.


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