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What is Chili Oil?


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In Chinese and Korean cooking, chili oil is a unique condiment that is commonly used. It is in essence an infusion of chili peppers in a base of oil of your choice - typically sesame oil. The colour is generally reddish orange and it tastes like chili peppers but with less heat making it an ideal sauce or dip for a lot of Chinese and Korean dishes.

Ingredients in Chili Oil

Chili Oil

This oil is very easy to prepare and the ingredients are dependent on the individual making it. It is prepared by cooking red chili peppers in a base oil of choice. The common oils of choice are sesame oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil or a combination of two or more oils. When choosing your oil, please ensure that it has a high smoke point i.e. it does not burn when extreme heat is applied. The chili can be fresh or dried. In Japanese cooking, they have a unique variety of chili oil called Rayu. Rayu contains chili peppers and other ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, paprika and guava leaves.   It is named after the type of pepper used in other cuisines like in Italian cuisine. Calabrian chili peppers are used in Italian cooking to produce Calabrian chili oil. Whereas szechuan chili peppers produce Szechuan chili oil.          

How to make chili oil at home?

The process to make this oil is pretty simple to do at home in your own kitchen. Here are the steps:

  1. Base oil - Pour your base oil in a pan. The oil that you choose is solely dependent on you - peanut oil, sesame oil or olive oil.Making your own Chili Oil
  2. Chili peppers- Cut the pepper of your choice lengthwise and remove the seeds if necessary. The seeds carry the heat and will result in an extra hot chili oil.
  3. Cook- Fry the chili peppers in the pan for about 8-10 minutes, then pour it directly into a mason jar or filter the oil through a sieve. Again, this is all dependent on your preference and how you intend to use it.
  4. Allow the oil to cool and cover the jar with a dark lid.  

Chili oil cannot be easily substituted. However, if a recipe calls for it and you don't have any on hand, feel free to use dried chili flakes in place for heat and spiciness. It will not be on the same level of complexity but it is a good stand in.

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