Chilli oil. Third batch in less than a month questions why I don’t have this up here yet. I’ve been meaning to make my own chilli oil for so long now, that when my friend posted her recipe a few weeks ago I took it as a sign and went for it. So easy to make and the results so good, I can’t believe I let it go this long.

The idea is this: you blend up some aromats—chillies, ginger, garlic, shallots/onions, sugar, salt, and spices—add to a bowl, and pour hot oil over the whole lot. When it cools to room temperature, decant and refrigerate. A quick sidebar before I go any further: the first time I made this, as I poured the oil into my bowl holding the aromats, the bowl cracked and I had a floor full of hot oil to mop up. I should probably also mention that I leapt up onto the other counter to dodge the fiery cascade. As much as I love chilli oil, I wasn’t willing to partake in more of these ninja acrobatics again.

So round two here’s what I did: instead of meddling with bowls and the like, I mounded the blended aromats onto a ladle and lowered it into the scalding oil. You still want to stand back and do this gently, but this method worked like a charm. Wearing oven mitts wouldn’t be such a bad idea here. If you’re apprehensive about the former method and/or have doubts about the quality of your ceramics, I would highly recommend doing it this way.  (Of course the former method would work with better quality bowls or safer still, stainless steel.) Choose your own adventure though – you’ll get the same glorious results whichever method you choose.

Making a big batch makes sense because it will keep for ages in your fridge. Also, keeping the base simple makes it more versatile. Having said that, there are lots of options for additional elements that you can add if you choose to (listed a few below). Will post recipes on here using this chilli oil as we go along, but for now there’s this Sichuan noodle that I’ve made more times than I can count.

CHILLI OIL

Servings: 500 ml

Ingredients

  • 500 ml oil (see notes)
  • 15 dried red chillies
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1" piece of ginger
  • 8 shallots (or ¼ cup onion)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 star anise (optional but recommended)

Add-ins (optional):

  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 large or 2 small pieces of cassia
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions

  • Add dried chillies, ginger, garlic, and shallots to a blender or food processor. Coarsely blend. You want some texture here, so pulse intead of continuously blending.
  • Decant into a bowl and mix in the sugar, salt and other add-ins if using. Set aside.
  • Add the oil to a large saucepan. (We are going to add the aromats into the hot oil which will make it sputter and bubble up wildly. So use a saucepan where the oil only comes about halfway up the top.)
  • Heat the oil. Test with a piece of ginger: drop it in. If it starts to sizzle and brown right away, your oil is ready. Take off the heat.
  • So here’s the bit you want to be careful about: add the aromats to a large ladle and lower it gently into the oil. As soon as it hits the oil it will sputter and bubble for a few seconds, so make sure to stand back. Wearing oven mitts wouldn't be a bad idea.
  • Let it sit for a minute. Stir a few times to make sure there are no large clumps at the bottom.
  • Let it cool to room temperature, then decant into a glass jar and refrigerate.

Notes

Adapted from Adhira Swami
I used long dried red chillies. The dried round ones would work too.
Oil: use any neutral flavoured oil. I used rice bran. Vegetable or sunflower oil are other alternatives.

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