Learn how to make Chinese chili oil (Chinese chili sauce), the essential seasoning for lots of Chinese cuisines, especially Szechuan-style dishes. And Elaine gets the secrets of making the perfect Chinese chili oil with strong enough flavor and bright red color.
What's Chinese red oil
Chinese chili oil is also called red oil in China. It combines seasoning using red pepper, Sichuan peppercorn, mixed spices, ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. High-temperature oil is usually used to stimulate the pungent aroma of red pepper powder. But meanwhile, it brings dark red color instead of bright red color. We will add red pepper powder in two batches, poured over with oil at different temperatures. High-temperature oil can simulate a strong aroma while lower-temperature oil brings us a bright red color. Traditionally people in Sichuan first toast red peppers and then break them by hand using a stone grinder. But now we directly buy red pepper powders from the supermarket and this homemade Chinese chili oil can be finished within 10 minutes.
Types of pepper flakes
Our most concerns about the pepper flakes are how spicy they are, the aromatics, and the color. We love to combine different types, 3 even 4 types, of chili peppers to make the flakes for chili oil. Just for your information, I love to mix Er Jing Tiao (aroma and color), Bullet Head (aroma), and Facing heaven(hotness). If you are in the US, you can go to this shop and find those ingredients.
But it is ok to use easy-to-find chili flakes, even not-so-hot types can work fine with this chili oil. I use a store-bought toasted chili flake and the result is quite amazing too. So my suggestion is to use your familiar type. But read the instruction and see whether the chili pepper is toasted already. If not yet, pan-fry the pepper flakes over a slow fire until aromatic. "Toasting in a small amount of oil" is the key factor that influences the taste and flavor.
A tip about keeping the color
One of the common failures of making chili oil might be the bitter taste bought by the over-high oil temperature. At the same time, the lovely bright red color will be lost too. On one hand, we need the oil to be hot enough to activate the aroma of the pepper flakes, on the other hand, we need to be very careful to avoid burned pepper flakes. When where is the balance? It is extremely hard to control this if you only chili oil only once a time or even twice. This experience can only be formed hundreds of times. So here comes my solution!
It is extremely simple and I am amazed by the result. Prepare some clean water (or boiled water after cooked) and wet the pepper flakes first. This method has also been used in Laziji, a local popular mala chicken. We soak the chili peppers first before using them to avoid them turning dark in the later pan-frying process. That's the magic!!
However, if you want the chili oil to be crispy a little bit, then you should skip mixing the water. You can try both types and see which type is best for you.
About the spices
In Sichuan cuisine, spices play important roles. If you visit a Sichuan-style restaurant selling Chongqing noodles, they use lots of herbs in the hot oil. It is ok to skip some of the spices but at least you need to prepare ginger, bay leaves, scallion white, star anise, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorn, and cloves.
Place around 1 cup of red pepper powder in a bowl. Mix in water if you prefer. Or you can skip this for a more crispy version.
Pour around 3 cups of oil into a wok, add scallion, coriander, white onion, and smashed ginger first because they contain water. Heat over a slow fire until the aromatics begin to wither.
Continue heating with slow fire for another 6 to 8 minutes until the contents are all withered and browned.
Take out all of the spices and aromatics.
Heat the oil for another 2 or 3 minutes until slightly smoky. Pour ⅓ of the oil into the bowl.
Mix to combine.
Repeat the above process twice to add all oil to the pepper flakes.
Add toasted sesame seeds. You can also add toasted peanuts too.
Keep the chili oil in an air-tight container and this can be kept for up to one month at room temperature.
This chili oil can be directly used in the following recipes.
- Red oil wonton
- Poached Chicken with Chili Sauce (Saliva Chicken)
- Bon Bon Chicken
- Chinese coriander salad
- Dan Dan Noodles
- Szechuan dumplings
- Chinese smashed cucumber
- hot and sour lotus root salad
- Sichuan-style pork in garlic sauce
Chinese Chili Oil
- 1 cup red pepper flakes ,Sichuan style pepper flakes is fried before curshing
- 3 tbsp. water , optional
- 2 tbsp. toasted white sesame seeds
- 3 cups vegetable oil
Spices (it is ok to skip some of the spices, but keep the musts)
- 1 thumb ginger ,must
- 3 bay leaves ,must
- 4 star anise ,must
- 1 bark Chinese cinnamon
- 3 scallion whites ,must
- 1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorn ,must
- 8 whole white pepper
- 1 Amomum tsao-ko ,Cao Guo
- 3 amomum kravanh ,White Dou Kou
- Place around 1 cup of red pepper powder in a bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of clean water. Combine and let the pepper flakes absorb the water. If you want a crispy version, then skip mixing in the water.
- Pour around 3 cups of oil into a wok, add scallion, coriander, white onion, and smashed ginger first because they contain water. Heat over a slow fire until the aromatics begin to wither. Place all the spices in.
- Heat the oil for another 2 or 3 minutes until slightly smoky. Pour ⅓ of the oil to the bowl. Mix to combine.
- Repeat the above process twice to add all oil to the pepper flakes. Add toasted sesame seeds.
- Keep the chili oil in an air-tight container and this can be kept for up to one month at room temperature.