There's no shame in not making all of your condiments.
I still buy ketchup at the store, and French mustard is a standby in my fridge. But there's something to be said for making your own homemade chili oil, especially when you consider all of the different ingredients that go into it.
When making your own homemade chili oil, there are a lot of opportunities to add flavor. Drizzle it on noodles, brown rice bowls, or my favorite: combine it with raw tahini for a simple, delicious dressing for a kale salad.
The key to making your chili oil special is simple when you think about it: first, pick a good oil; then, pick good chili.
For the oil, I like to go with something neutral. While sesame oil makes a great pairing with chili oil in a lot of dishes, it also goes rancid more quickly than other oils and can be quite overpowering in flavor. Choose a neutral, healthy oil that holds up well to heat: rapeseed oil (also known as canola oil), peanut oil and sunflower oil are all good choices -- pick something with a high or medium-high smoke point.
Next, pick the chili. Depending on the heat you want your oil to have, you may want to go with a combination of one or all of the following:
- Organic red pepper flakes - won't add any spice but will add a nice smoky sweetness to your oil.
- Korean chile flakes. Watch out: these are hot! But they also boast a lovely, earthy complexity that will give your oil some depth.
- Organic Sichuan peppercorns - adds a nice, numbing, tingly spice to the oil. You don't need very many of these to get the effect, so err on the side of caution: 3 or 4 will suffice for about a cup of oil.
- Whole, dried Cayenne peppers - not only healthy and spicy but also add a beautiful color to the oil.
Once you've found your oil and spice blend, you just need to follow the recipe!
Homemade Chili Oil Recipe
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup neutral oil
1 clove garlic, smashed but still whole
1 Thai green onion, cut into inch-long pieces
1/2 cup assorted dried peppers from the above list
1 star anise
Heat the neutral oil over low heat in a deep but narrow pot so that the oil is in a fairly deep layer. Add the clove of garlic. Smash each of the pieces of Thai green onion and add them to the oil as well. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Add the pepper and cook for an additional minute. Add the star anise.
Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and set off the heat for approximately 30 minutes.
Remove the star anise, garlic and green onion from the oil. Pour the remaining oil and chili bits (these are my favorite bits!) into a glass container with a lid. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 months.
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