Sichuan Garlic Chili Sauce

30 grams (1 cup) whole dried chili peppers (*see footnote)
15 grams (1 thumb) minced ginger
60 grams (15 cloves) garlic, crushed
1/2 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorn
4 tablespoons spicy fermented bean paste
1 tablespoon sugar

To cook the sauce:
Use scissors to cut each chili pepper into 4 to 5 pieces. Prepare ginger and garlic.

Add oil and peppercorn to a wok (or small skillet) and heat over medium heat. When the peppercorns start sizzling, continue cooking for about 2 minutes, until they turn dark brown and you can smell a pungent fragrance. If the oil starts to smoke, turn to lowest heat. Remove the peppercorns with a straining ladle or spatula and discard them.

Add chili peppers and cook over low heat until the color darkens. This will happen very quickly, in less than 1 minute, if you’re using a gas stove.

Add ginger and garlic and give it a quick stir. Add chili bean paste and sugar and continue to cook over low heat until everything is mixed well and you can smell a strong garlicky aroma, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and transfer everything to a large plate to cool off.

When the sauce has cooled, transfer it to a clean jar. You can store the sauce at room temperature for a month or in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Depending on the type of chili pepper you’re using, the sauce will have varying levels of spiciness. I prefer to use a less spicy chili pepper, so the sauce will be well balanced and not too spicy. If you’re not sure about the spiciness of the pepper, smell them when you just open the package. If you can smell a strong and pungent aroma, that makes your nose itch, then you should be careful. You can discard the seeds after breaking the peppers. If you don’t smell a very pungent aroma, you can use the whole chili pepper with seeds.

To use the sauce:
Use the master sauce to cook meat, poultry, and/or vegetables
You can add the chili garlic sauce into any stir fried dish at the end of cooking and mix well. The dish will be infused with a pungent and hot flavor just as in authentic Sichuan dishes, as in the following recipe:

Slice or cube half a pound of meat or poultry into bite sized pieces.

Chop 2 cups vegetables.

Marinate meat or poultry with 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet (or wok) and cook the protein until the surface is cooked but is still raw inside. (Skip this if you’re cooking a vegetable dish)

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in the skillet (or wok) until warm and add minced ginger (or green onion) to infuse flavor. Add veggies and cook until almost cooked through.

Add cooked meat back into skillet. (Skip this if you’re cooking a vegetable dish)

Add 2 tablespoons chili sauce with salty seasoning (about 1/2 salt or 1 spoonful light soy sauce). Mix well and adjust seasoning.

To use the sauce with other seasonings to create a new sauce:

(option 1) Combine the chili garlic sauce with other ingredients such as soy sauce, black vinegar, Sichuan peppercorn powder, spicy fermented bean paste and / or sugar, and then use as a sauce for stir frying. It will create a lot of authentic Sichuan flavor, like that found in yu xiang (literally “fish fragrant”, practically spicy, sweet, and sour), xiang la (sweet spicy), mapo (savory spicy).

(option 2) You can also add it to oyster sauce or hoisin sauce to spice up a comforting American Chinese dish.

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