We just welcomed the new year and bid goodbye to the holiday seasons. By the first week of the new year most of the decoration have been removed. But as an asian, the holiday is far beyond over.
Usually, Chinese New Year will falls during the period of either January or February depend on the Chinese calendar. This year Chinese New Year came quickly. It falls on the 5th of February therefore, it is another busy month to go. Like Christmas, we need to get really and do spring cleaning at least a month ahead.
The kitchen would be like a battlefield as well. We will start shopping for decoration, goods and ingredients. Especially pre-making all the homemade sauces as these are the most basic and allow you to store it for a longer period of time.
Chili oil is such an important staple for Chinese families, equal to soy sauce and vinegar. For many Chinese people, chili oil is as important as ketchup is to American people. It always shows up on tables of small diners, no matter whether it’s a dumpling or noodle place. Once you’re hooked, you’ll want to pour it on everything.
Whenever I’m talking about chili oil, I always refer to homemade chili oil. It tastes ten times better than the store-bought product, lasts just as long if you store it in the fridge, and does not contain additives or MSG. There is this fresh aromatic nuttiness that bottled chili oil never delivers.
Plus, when you use chili oil like a Chinese person, you gotta mix in the chili flakes as well. The chili flakes are well toasted when you cook the chili oil, so they taste less spicy but quite smoky with a crispy texture. When mixing with noodles, these tiny umami bits coat the ingredients evenly and each bite releases waves of piquant zing to your taste buds. It’s as exciting as throwing a handful of Pop Rocks in your mouth!
The process might look intimidating at first, but you won’t believe how easy it is once you try it. There are three steps involved.
- Combine chili flakes with aromatics of your choice in a heatproof jar/ bowl.
- Heat the oil until it reaches 190 C, you don’t want to overheat it! If the oil is too hot, it will burn the pepper flakes and sesame seeds, and the resulting chili oil will be bitter in taste.
- Pour oil into the bowl with chili flakes. The oil will bubble fiercely at first and quickly cook the chili flakes. Simply mix everything together with a spoon and let the oil sit until cooled down.
That’s it! Now you have a jar of delicious chili oil to use to create an authentic Chinese flavor. The oil can be stored covered at room temperature for two weeks, or up to six months in the fridge in an airtight container.
- 4 tbsp crushed chili flakes
- 2 tsp five spice powder
- 1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorn
- whole star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup vegetable oil
Combine chili flakes, five spice powder, sesame seeds, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and bay leaves in a heatproof ceramic bowl that can hold at least 2 cups liquid. Place the bowl on a heat resistant coaster.
Heat oil in a wok (or a skillet) over medium-high heat. Add ginger. When the ginger starts to wither and turns golden brown, immediately turn off the heat. The oil should reach 370 degrees F (190 C) and no higher than 400 F (200 C) if read with an instant thermometer.
Carefully pour oil or use a ladle to transfer oil into the bowl of mixed spices. The oil will bubble for a few seconds and cook the spices. While the the oil is bubbling, use a metal spoon to stir gently to mix the spices, so they’ll cook thoroughly.
When the oil cools down a bit, scoop out and discard the star anise and bay leaf.
The oil is now ready to use! Its flavor will mature if you let it rest for a day, allowing the spices to infuse into the oil. Take a photo of your version, send us an email, tag us on Instagram, tweet us, anything. We love to see you trying out our recipe!