If your experience with chile oil up to now has been limited to supermarket brands, you are in for a real treat here. The spices slowly crisp up in the oil, tamping down their fiery natures and resulting in a crunchy, delightful gravel topped with a deliciously scented oil. Read the full article about Chinese mother sauces here. —Madame Huang
about 1½ cups
peanut or vegetable oil
toasted sesame oil
finely ground dried chiles
coarsely ground dried chiles
whole Sichuan peppercorns
whole dried or fresh orange peel, removed in a single strip, if you can
Pour the oils into a 4-cup saucepan and add all of the chiles and the Sichuan peppercorns. Bring the oil to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to low so that the oil gently bubbles; do not cook the chiles over higher heat, as they will burn.
After about 10 minutes, place the orange peel in the oil. I found through trial and error that the best way to cook the chile oil to perfection is to simmer the peppers over low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes or so, until the orange peel has turned brown. At this point, the peppers will be crispy but not browned, and the oil will have a gentle smokiness and will still be bright red.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit overnight. You can either discard the orange peel or chop it finely and add it to back to the oil for a subtle, citrusy perfume. Either strain out the oil into a squeeze bottle and keep the solids in a jar, or else combine them in a jar. If you’re not using it up in a couple of days, for optimum freshness, then keep it chilled.
Carolyn Phillips is a food writer, scholar, and artist. She is the author of the fully illustrated All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China (McSweeney’s + Ten Speed Press, August 2016) and The Dim Sum Field Guide: A Taxonomy of Dumplings, Buns, Meats, Sweets, and Other Specialties of the Chinese Teahouse (Ten Speed Press, August 2016). Her work has appeared in such places as Best Food Writing 2015, Lucky Peach, Gastronomica, Buzzfeed, Alimentum, Huffington Post, Food52, Zester Daily, and at the 2013 MAD Symposium in Copenhagen. She and her husband were cultural consultants on the third Ghostbusters movie, her weekly blog is Madame Huang's Kitchen (MadameHuang.com), she Tweets as @madamehuang, and Instagrams as @therealmadamehuang.
Carolyn’s art has appeared everywhere from museums and galleries to various magazines and journals to Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas series. She worked for over a decade as a professional Mandarin interpreter in the federal and California state courts, lived in Taiwan for eight years, translated countless books and articles, and married into a Chinese family more than 30 years ago.