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With a lively bright red color, the Chinese Spicy Chili Oil is the cornerstone of Sichuan and Hunan Chinese cuisine. It’s not simply a spicy oil, but it’s also particularly aromatic due to the use of different spices. It has a really intoxicating scent, especially the notes of Sichuan pepper and star anise, but the flavor is really much more complex. It’s spicy but not too much (by my standards) and fits any dish, from white rice to stir fried rice, sauteed or brothed noodles, ramen and most of all on your favorite Chinese dumplings!
Chinese Spicy Chili Oil
Chinese Spicy Chili Oil is famous in the West also under the name of Sichuan Spicy Oil. In China, on the other hand, it has more than one name. 辣椒 油 “là jiāo yóu” is the most common and means “hot pepper oil”, in Sichuan it is called 紅油 “hóng yóu”, that is “red oil” or it can also be found as 油泼 辣子 “yóu pō There zǐ ”, which translated means” oil dipped in chilli “since it is the method to prepare it.
The peculiarity of Chinese Spicy Chili Oil, isn’t its spiciness. but its flavor and scent given by a mix of spices that can vary according to the recipe, in fact every family has its own in China.
The main spice of all recipes is Sichuan Pepper. It’s a spice that has nothing to do with the classic black pepper, in truth it is not even a pepper, even if the berries are similar. It can be found under different names: in China Huājiāo “花椒” meaning “flower pepper” or Shānjiāo meaning “mountain pepper”. From this last term in Japan the name is adapted and called Sanshō “山椒”. In Nepal they call it Timur and in Korea Chopinamu “초 피나무”. It has a fresh flavor with notes of lemon and also menthol and camphor, its taste like clove, tends to slightly numb the tongue.
It’s used to prepare Chinese Spicy Chili Oil, sauces, finely ground directly into dishes and is one of the components of the mix called “5 Chinese spices” and of the most complex which includes 13, both typical of Sichuan and in the mix of spices and chilli pepper Shichimi Togarashi Japanese.
In addition to Sichuan pepper, star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves, ginger, green onion, black cardamom, fennel seeds and sesame seeds are used. In some recipes you can also find chopped roasted peanuts. The peppers used in China are obviously indigenous, unfortunately they can be difficult to find but it will be enough to replace them carefully. The oil can be prepared with both flaked and powdered chillies, in this recipe I use the powdered one with sesame seeds but when it ends I want to try the flaked one.
The preparation of Chinese Spicy Chili Oil is not a complex operation, just pay attention to a few small things.
First of all, use a bowl that can withstand high temperatures, opt for a pyrex or steel bowl so it doesn’t break with the heat of boiling oil. When using the powdered spices, put the Sichuan pepper as the first spice so that it remains on the bottom and then the paprika which are the finest and risk burning immediately in contact with the oil, then put the others ending with the sesame and salt.
When you heat the oil, do it over medium-low heat so that they fry slowly releasing all their aroma into the oil without burning. Many speak of temperatures, in fact it would be good to bring the oil to 120 °C and then cook for another 10 minutes until it reaches 150 °C, but not everyone has a cooking thermometer.
Alternatively, when you see the first bubbles around the ginger and the spring onion, cook for another 10 minutes, you will understand that it will be ready when you see these two ingredients turn golden. At this point you can drain them and pour the oil over the spices little by little very carefully. Stir, cool and store in a tightly sealed jar.
The Chinese Spicy Chili Oil keeps well both outside and in the fridge.
Chinese Spicy Chili Oil
- 300 g Corn Oil
- 1 Green Onions
- 3 cm Ginger
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 1 stick Cinnamon
- 2 Star Anise
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 5 Tbsp Gochugaru Chili
- 3 Tbsp Sweet Paprika
- 2 – ½ Tbsp Chilli Powder
- 2 – ½ Tbsp White Sesame Seeds
- 1 – ½ Tbsp Sichuan Peppercorns
- 1 tsp Salt
- In a heat resistant bowl, put the following ingredients in this order: Sichuan Pepper, Sweet Paprika, Chili Powder, Gochugaru (Korean Chilli), White Sesame Seeds and salt.
- In a saucepan put the oil, the garlic and the sliced ginger, the spring onion cut into 3-4 parts according to the length and the rest of the spices.
- Cook over medium-low heat, when you see the ginger start to brown, cook for another 10 minutes.
- Transfer the oil into a jar and store outside or in the fridge. The oil can be used right away.
The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a professional nutritionist.