This Sichuan chili oil recipe is so simple that you will wonder why you haven't made it before. I keep a jar of this oil around at all times to add quick spice and flavor to many of my Asian recipes. Believe me, the 10 minutes you invest in this will be worth it!
Is it Szechuan or Sichuan?
Basically, these are two different names for the same place, both relating to the Southern Province in China. In mainland China, the word is spelled Sichuan when romanized. In older romanization of the word, it was often spelled Szechuan, though that spelling has fallen out of fashion. Though you will still see both spellings, the one most commonly used is 'Sichuan'.
The Flavors of Sichuan Food
Many people associate Sichuan food with the hot, tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn and fiery heat. Although this recipe uses both, there is a depth to Sichuan food which should not be ignored. Yes, it is spicy. That spice, however, is always balanced with sweet and sour and bitter. The chiles and peppercorns are often a highlighted with the ferments of Chinese black beans and soy sauce. I love to start with making the chili oil myself, as I can control the flavors. Then, when I use that as a base to the sauce, I can layer in the intricacies that make Chinese food more than just your corner take-out.
What to Cook with Sichuan Chili Oil
I love to keep a jar of this oil in my fridge so that I can add a quick bit of flavor and heat to anything I'm making. The most common recipe I make with this is my Sichuan Chili Sauce that uses this oil as a base. That can be put on dumplings or veggies for a true flavor punch that will steal the show! If I'm feeling lazy and want just a quick recipe, I can combine it with a little bit of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for a quick Asian inspired dressing- great on things like this Sesame Zucchini Noodle Salad. My general rule about condiments is that CONDIMENTS ARE EVERYTHING! With the right condiments, any ingredient can shine with very little effort.
Read more about the history of Sichuan cuisine here.
Sichuan Chili Oil
- Place all the ingredients in a small, thick-bottomed saucepot.
- Turn heat on medium-low and heat slowly approximately 10 minutes.
- You will see the oil start to ripple, but it should not smoke or boil. The oil will become bitter if it gets too hot. You only want to warm the oil enough to extract the flavors of the spice
- Turn off the heat and let sit for approximately 20 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature.
- Pour into a clean mason jar and keep sealed in a cool, dark place for storage.
- This chili oil will deepen in color as it sits. There is no need to refrigerate.