Chilli oil is sometimes used as a dipping condiment as well as a seasoning in China, where it is generally milder than the commercially made chilli oil from Sichuan Province, and certainly never as hot as the oil from Southeast Asia. Of course, as chillies vary, so do the oils vary in strength and flavour. You can purchase chilli oil from Chinese markets. The Thai and Malaysian versions are especially hot; the Taiwanese and Chinese versions are more subtle. Such commercial products are quite acceptable, but I include this recipe because the homemade version is the best. Remember that chilli oil is too dramatic to be used as the sole cooking oil; it is best used as part of a dipping sauce or as a condiment, or combined with milder oils. I include the spices (pepper and black beans) as additional flavours because then I can also use it as a dipping sauce.
Once made, chilli oil will keep for months if it is stored in a tightly sealed glass jar and kept in a cool, dark place.
Heat a wok over a high heat and add the oil and the rest of the ingredients. Continue to cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool undisturbed and then pour it into a jar. Let the mixture sit for 2 days, and then strain the oil. It will keep indefinitely.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.