How to Make Chinese Red Chili Oil （红油）
This chili oil is a spicy oil infusion made by adding dried chili flakes to a hot oil (neutral oil). It is often used as a condiment, especially in Sichuan cuisine, and it can also be used as the base for a sauce or sautéed dish as well as cold dish such as cucumber salad for example.
When used as a condiment, chili oil generally enhances the spiciness of a dish it is used on. When used as a base, this oil will greatly enhance the spiciness of a dish, since the temperature of cooking will bring out the heat. Many grocery stores carry this oil, especially in Asian supermarket or the specialty foods aisle.
Recently, there has been many new varieties of this chili oil, for example, in Japan there is a new product called “taberu rayu (食べるラー油 or -辣油, literally, “rāyu for eating“). This has become a trend in 2010; this variety is known for reduced spiciness and less aromatic but more savory as it includes chunks of food such as fried garlic, fried onion, and/or dried baby shrimp. The oil used in this case is sesame oil. The reason sesame oil is used rather than neutral oil is because the sesame oil already contains aromatic flavor, additional spices to enhance it is unnecessary or else the flavor will be too complicated and overpowering.
This condiment is a necessary part of many famous Sichuan dishes such as Sichuan cold noodles, Ma Po Tofu, Sichuan dumplings, Sichuan Wonton soup, Dan Dan Noodle just to name a few. Generally, there are two ways to make this, the “traditional way” and the “simple way”.
In the traditional way, the oil is cooked with spices to extract the aroma and flavor from it. Spices which includes, star anise, cassia bark, fennel, ginger, green onion roots, Sichuan peppercorn, Tsao kuo, bay leaves and etc. These spices add depth to the chili oil and make it taste better. The dried chili pepper are lightly stir fried, this will give the peppers a slightly smoky aromatic flavor which will subtle enhance the dishes you are making.
The simple way of making the red chili oil is by pouring the hot oil over the powdered spices and using processed crushed chili flakes. Doing this way, you will still obtain the red color of the chili but the flavor and aroma is not as pronounced because the spices needs more time and heat to fully release its flavor into the oil.
Oil: 1 1/4 cup or 300 mL (Rapeseed, Canola, Peanut etc)
Dried Chilies: 2-3 oz
Five Spice Powder: 1- 1 1/2 tsp
Ginger: 2-4 slices
Green Onion: 3-4 sprigs (root only)
Sesame Seeds: 1 1/2 tbsp
Sichuan Peppercorn: 1 tbsp
Oil: 1 tbsp for stir frying chilies
Bay Leaves: 1-2 (optional)
Star Anise: 1 (optional)