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Making your own chili sauce 自制红油


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Try putting the spices in a small muslin bag tied at the top and leave it to do its stuff, when your done fish out the bag and hey presto its done. It is technically called a Bouquet Garni and is usually used with Fine Herbs.

Here are some pictures:




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On 11/5/2017 at 9:53 PM, Shelley said:

Try putting the spices in a small muslin bag tied at the top and leave it to do its stuff, when your done fish out the bag and hey presto its done. It is technically called a Bouquet Garni and is usually used with Fine Herbs.


I often use bouquet garnis with stews, but I was worried about using it in hot oil as my pan isn't very deep, so the bag would have little choice but to touch the bottom. Wasn't sure about whether it would scorch and create off flavors, etc?

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  • 2 years later...

Chili Oil Update -- 红油 


Made a batch of this glorious stuff again today and realized it had been about two years since I first wrote it up. It has become one of the staples in my kitchen, something it would be difficult to live without. Although the basic recipe is the same today as it was in 2017, I've gradually evolved a couple small hacks that make the results more consistent without any extra work. 


I usually just whip this up from memory, without using an actual written recipe. It helps that the measurements are not critical. You will need about two handfuls of dried peppers 干辣椒 and a generous cup of rapeseed oil 菜籽油。Peanut oil will work but is not as flavorful. All the other dry ingredients are optional although the Sichuan peppercorns 花椒 (huajiao) really add a lot. They and they alone can supply that distinctive tongue-tingling kick that separates Sichuan cuisine from anything else in the whole world. They are the "ma" component of the Sichuan "ma-la" flavor marriage 麻辣味。


The quantity of the dry ingredients follows the “law or one or two.”


One or two teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns 花椒, one or two bay leaves 香叶,  one or two cloves of garlic 大蒜,一两瓣,one or two small pieces of dry tangerine peel 橙皮, one or two small pieces of Chinese cinnamon 桂皮,  one or two teaspoons of fennel seeds 小茴香,one or two cloves 丁香,one or two pieces of star anise 八角,one or two pods of black cardamom 草果, one or two teaspoons of white sesame seeds 白芝麻。As a practical matter, what I would suggest is to use one of each first time out of the starting gate, and then adjust to taste next time you make it.


It helps to think of the process as having discrete parts. It helps to sort of “stage it” in an orderly manner.  


1.      Toast the peppers and the huajiao to let them develop more flavor. First toast the peppers alone in a medium hot skillet and scoop them out. Only takes about a minute. Then toast the huajiao the same way. This gives the flavors a huge boost, but you must be careful not to scorch them. Best to err on the side of too little time, not on the side of too much.

2.      Let the peppers cool and then grind them in a blender or crush them with a mortar and pestle. If you want less fire from your chili oil, take out some of the seeds before you grind the peppers. The flavor will still be rich and round. Put the ground chilis and a teaspoon or two of white sesame seeds into a heatproof bowl.

3.      Make hot flavored oil. Do this by heating the rapeseed oil and the other dry ingredients together over medium-low heat for a couple minutes, stirring as they cook. Then strain and discard the solids.

4.      Reheat the flavored oil until it’s good and hot, almost ready to smoke. If you have an instant read thermometer, this is 190 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a thermometer, float a couple slices of ginger on the surface of the oil. When they become deep golden and the margins start to curl, the oil is hot enough.

5.      Pour the hot oil into the ground chilies to cook them. Do it in two batches. Pour in half the oil and stir as it spits, bubbles and sizzles. Then pour in the second half of the hot oil. This sounds like extra trouble, but it allows the peppers to cook at two different temperatures and gives the resulting sauce a complex robust flavor. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.)


239148344_IMG_20191114_164403(2)-850px.thumb.jpg.ac61b6e8134f6258ca7eb906b2716168.jpg     408781762_IMG_20191114_164639(2)-850px.thumb.jpg.834b0bc3f8e52ec7be6e87732d8891fb.jpg


This is what mine looked like today. If it stands out overnight, the flavor becomes richer and more unified. I put about half of the chili oil in a small ceramic pot that stays on my dining table. The rest goes into a lidded jam jar which I put in the fridge. It keeps just fine for a month. It might last much longer. I can’t really say: mine always gets used up.

















The distinctive thing about this essential Chinese condiment is that it does more than simply add heat to a dish. Difficult to describe, but it has subtle qualities that boost other flavors without covering them up. People just thinking about it in the abstract usually don't "get it." It is used as a table condiment as well as having an important place in cooking SW Chinese food. 


Throughout Yunnan, most informal restaurants and cafes will have a pot of this on the table. A dispenser for dark vinegar 老陈醋  and soy sauce 生抽 will most likely be somewhere else back by the kitchen. The "table condiment" array might be rounded out with a small dish or shaker of salt 食盐 and another of plain MSG crystals 味精。 


Health warning: If you try this real-deal, home-made seasoning once, there’s a good chance you will become addicted.


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