Having jars of Burma basics made and ready to be used in recipes gives me a rich, “my cupboard is full” feeling and makes cooking food from Burma very easy. From left: Fried Shallots, Shallot Oil, Toasted Chickpea Flour, and two versions of Red Chile Oil—one strained and, behind it, one with the chile residue still in the oil.

Chile variations (clockwise from the bottom): large dried red cayenne chiles, lightly roasted; finely ground chile powder and next to it, chile oil; coarse dried red chile powder including seeds, in a mortar; and a heap of regular dried red chiles.

Chile oil is quick to make and keeps well at room temperature. You’ll be happy to have it on hand to add a dash of heat and color to many dishes. It can also go on the table as a condiment, with a small spoon so guests can scoop out a little to drizzle on their soup or noodles or whatever. Be sure to warn them that it’s very hot.

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  • 1 cup packed dried red chiles, soaked in lukewarm water for 20 minutes
  • 1 cup peanut oil


Drain the chiles and remove and discard the stems. Put the chiles in a food processor and process to a coarse paste.

Pour the oil into a nonreactive pan and set over medium heat. Add the chile paste and bring to a bubbling boil, then remove from the heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature.

You can store the oil with the chiles in it, but in Burma the oil often is served on its own. For clear oil, drain the oil through a sieve into a clean, dry glass jar and seal with the lid. Store away from heat and light. You can keep the chiles in another glass jar for a spicy condiment, or discard them.