You can use this chili oil as a condiment on just about any Asian food: Mix it with equal parts soy sauce for a great noodle sauce, or try it with some Zhenjiang black vinegar as a dumpling sauce. Heck, I even go Western with it, oven-roasting potatoes or cauliflower in it.
A note on the ingredients:
You should be able to find preserved black beans (douchi) at any Chinese market. Look for ones labeled Yang Jiang, named for the city in Guangdong Province that makes the most famous douchi. Yang Jiang black soybeans are salted and fermented with ginger, and this brand, at least, must be smoked because the beans have a distinct hint of smoke. Some people rinse them before use, but I just run a knife through them for a rough chop.
The kind of red pepper flake used in chili oil makes a big difference. Sichuan chili flakes are the best, but are difficult to find outside of Sichuan. Although you can find whole, dried Chinese red peppers in the U.S., I don't recommend processing them to make flakes for this recipe; they are difficult to de-seed and grind into flakes that are fine enough for this purpose, and their jagged edges are unpleasant. Instead, I recommend using coarse-ground Korean red pepper flakes, which is easy to find and, while not as bright red as Sichuan chili flakes, have a similar color, texture, and medium-hot heat. Just made sure it's coarse, and not fine powder. —Taylor Holliday
preserved black beans, coarsely chopped
coarse-ground Sichuan or Korean red pepper flakes or dried red pepper flakes
Ground, roasted Sichuan pepper or Chinese five-spice (optional)
1 1/2 cups
peanut oil (China- or Taiwan-made, if possible)
Layer the dry ingredients in a heat-proof pint canning jar with a tight-fitting lid. Put black beans in first, then red pepper flakes, salt, sugar, and spice (if using). Set aside.
Add the oil to a small sauce pan and heat over a medium flame until hot. To test if hot, place one small shallot bit in the pan. If the pan is hot enough, the shallot bit will sizzle when it hits the oil. Add the shallots and fry until they start to brown. Do not burn the shallots, but keep the oil at a fast bubbling simmer.
When shallots are just golden, immediately transfer the hot oil and shallots to a glass measuring cup. Immediately pour the oil and shallots from the measuring cup over the jarred red pepper flake mixture. The flakes should fizz and sizzle, getting a light toast from the hot oil. Allow to cool, then stir the mixture until well combined. Leave to cool and settle, and enjoy immediately or store in a cool, dark place. The mixture will taste best after it's infused for a few days, and will last for roughly a month.