I sought to replicate the chili oil offered as a condiment at Taiwanese dumpling houses- fiery, but with a strong spiced note and a nice chunky body. It is good on every protein and green vegetable, but it shines on simple pork chops, egg-battered tofu, fish, fried rice, green beans, and kale. Combine it with soy sauce and black vinegar for a fast and delicious dumpling dip.
Variations: This recipe is customizeable and could yield a clear cooking oil (less crushed chilies, strained out), a numbing Sichuan oil (steep the peppercorns overnight), or a mild dip (less chilies, or a mild variety). My ideal oil does not steep the peppercorns, uses spicy crushed Chinese chilies for heat, and fruity Korean chili powder for its flavor (see note). I use 2 cups of chilies for a spicy and chunky oil, which increases the volume of the jars to 6 cups.
Note: The first time I made this, I used Tien Tsin chilies and nearly killed a person who threw it in a smoking wok- very fiery! Commercial red pepper, however, produces a bland tasting oil. If you do not want the extreme spice of the Chinese chilies, use something with a complex flavor such as Aleppo or Korean varieties for the crushed pepper. —Corby
Optional: soak the Sichuan peppercorns in the neutral oil overnight. If you enjoy the numbing sensation (or need to mitigate some intensely spicy chilies), this is for you. Otherwise, include the peppercorns when you add the other dry spices.
Clean and sterilize containers that will accommodate about 6 cups of oil. Divvy up the chili flakes and powder between them if you would like a chunky dipping oil as pictured. Otherwise, you may steep the oil in the saucepan and strain the solids out before portioning it.
Clean the fresh aromatics (garlic, scallions, and ginger) and chop into large segments. Combine the peppercorns, oil, aromatics, and whole spices in a large saucepan. Bring the oil to the barest of simmers and maintain it for 20 minutes. At the end, add the pinch of 5 spice powder and tablespoon of sesame oil, if using. After, let the oil cool until you are comfortable pouring it.
Pour the oil through a strainer into the container with the pulverized chilies. Let steep at room temperature for 24 hours- it will attain a red hue and its spicy punch. Subsequently use or refrigerate, as the fresh aromatics increase the chance the oil will spoil.