Love chilli? Here’s your new addiction!
Making aromatic flavoured oils is as easy as pie. Really. It costs less and tastes better than commercial varieties, it’s fun and rewarding to make, plus you’ll have some nifty gifts to pass along to friends and family.
So with Xmas looming, best you get cracking – collect a few jars and bottles with tight-fitting lids, rustle up some ingredients and get busy. (I have a streak of the thrifty housewife in me, so I’m always saving up, rinsing and storing glass jars for future use.)
This gloriously fiery, salty, spicy chilli oil has been one of my favourites for decades. I first tasted it in a London Chinese restaurant during a slap-up Sunday dim sum feast, and I was instantly hooked. I need zero excuse to spoon some over whatever I’m having for lunch. Zero.
Roast chilli oil is not always easy to find commercially and even then it can be pricy – about R45 for a 200g jar last time I looked. At the rate my son and his dad (and I) consume it, making large quantities at home is really the sensible thing to do. I also actually prefer the taste of this home-made version to any I’ve ever bought, probably because commercial varieties might use slightly inferior ingredients. Also, you can tweak the recipe to your own taste, as long as you keep all the basics in. Recently I added a heaped teaspoonful of fermented shrimp paste to a batch of chilli oil I was making, and was blown away by the rich umami tang it added.
To ensure a really 5-star chilli oil, use fresh ingredients well before their sell-by date. No use digging out the semi-rancid bottle of oil and stale packet of chilli flakes from the back of your cupboard!
Use either peanut or sunflower oil, and a light, untoasted sesame oil. (Japanese brands are pretty good here.) A toasted sesame oil will end up making your chilli oil too heavy and dark.
Right! Let’s get cracking and cook up some fiery goodness, then, shall we?
SPICY ROAST CHILLI OIL
Use sparingly in Asian and Oriental dishes, with noodles or pasta or blend with other ingredients for your braai marinades. You can also use the chilli oil plain as a dip with steamed buns and dumplings.
Makes about 3 cups (750ml)
2/3 cup very hot dried chilli flakes
1/3 cup Chinese fermented black beans, unrinsed and chopped (I’ve also used fermented black bean paste with perfect results)
6 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
1 heaped teaspoon (about 7.5ml) fermented shrimp paste (optional, but really does add depth and loads of umami). Find at Thai or Asian groceries.
2 T (30ml) grated fresh ginger
2 ½ cups (625ml) peanut or sunflower oil
1/3 cup (180ml) light sesame oil
- Combine all the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan and warm slowly over medium heat. Let it simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, before removing from the heat and leave to cool completely.
- Decant into sterilised glass jars with tight-fitting lids and store in a cool dark place. The heat will increase as time passes. Use the oil alone for a milder kick, and scoop up some of the delicious paste at the bottom for a blast of fire!