Sichuan Chili Oil

1 1/2 cups oil (ideally a vegetable, peanut, or grapeseed oil)
5 star anise
1 cinnamon stick, preferably cassia cinnamon
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
3/4 cup Asian crushed red pepper flakes (Sichuan chili flakes are the best)
1 – 1½ teaspoons salt (to taste)

Heat the oil, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and Sichuan peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium high heat. When the oil starts to bubble slightly, turn the heat down to medium.

Let the oil cook for 30 minutes like this. If you start to see that slight bubbling die down, periodically turn the heat back up to medium-high, then back down to medium if it gets too hot.

When the oil is done cooking, the seeds and pods should be darker in color, but not blackened (that means they burned, which results in subpar chili oil). Let the oil cool for 5 minutes. In a separate heat-proof bowl, measure out the crushed red pepper flakes and salt.

Remove the aromatics from the oil using a fine mesh strainer. Slowly pour the oil over the chili flakes, and stir well. When completely cooled, transfer to a jar, and store in the refrigerator. The oil will keep for up to 6 months when stored this way (always remember to use a clean spoon to dip into the jar!)

Another version:

4 tablespoons crushed Chinese or Korean chili flakes
2 teaspoons five spice powder
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorn
(optional) 2 whole star anise
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable oil (or grapeseed oil)
(optional) 1 piece thinly sliced ginger

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.

The oil can be stored covered at room temperature for two weeks, or up to six months in the fridge in an airtight container.

One more:

First, you’ll need a ton of chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. For the former, just about any kind (and level of heat) will do; just make sure they’re roughly ground and you have a lot—at least half a pound. For the latter, you want at least 1/2 cup of the freshest you can find (many shops sell them online).

This is the most important step: Infusing the oil. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, simmer 1 1/2 quarts canola oil with a whole head of garlic, a 3-inch nub of ginger, and a host of dried spices: star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, black and green cardamom. You want the garlic and ginger just fizzing over low heat, making sure neither browns or burns, for at least 2 hours, until the oil is deeply fragrant.

In a large steel mixing bowl, add the ground chilies, the Sichuan peppercorns, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Stir to combine.

When the infused oil is ready, turn the heat up to high, and when the ginger and garlic are furiously fizzing, pour the oil through a sieve into the dried chili mixture. And, uh, be careful!

Chefs in Sichuan say that if the oil foams up, that’s a good sign.

When it’s cooled down a bit, pour the chili oil into jars: Large if you’re keeping this for yourself, smaller if you want to give as gifts. (This stuff makes a good gift!)

While it’s pretty good right now, it will taste even better a few days from now. Plus, it’ll keep pretty much forever, especially if you put it in the fridge.

To make a sauce for boiled dumplings: a good heaping spoonful or two with a ton of black vinegar.

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