Chili Oil

(辣油 mandarin: la-yo; Cantonese: la-yao)

Also called hot oil, red pepper oil, and hot chili oil in English, this is the red and spicy oil made from an infusion of spicy red peppers in either vegetable or sesame oil. I use the sort made with sesame oil, called “Aji Oil” in Japanese (辣蔴油 mandarin: la-ma-yo; Cantonese: la-ma-yao), which has a fragrance and depth in addition to being hot. The best bottled brands, packed by the Japanese firm Kadoya under the name Aji Oil and by the Japanese firm Iwai’s under the name Sesame Chili Oil (Chima Rayu), are excellent though expensive. I have never found a Chinese brand to compete with them, though I am always looking. You can make an excellent chili oil at home if you have a good Chinese or Japanese sesame oil to begin with.

Chili oil keeps indefinitely in the bottle, stored in a coolish place away from light and heat. I prefer a cool cupboard to the refrigerator, which forces you to bring the oil to room temperature before using it if you want the best of its flavor and smell.