Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hong You (Chili Oil)

When you purchase chili flake, try to buy flake which is a bright red color.  Some Asian markets will sell chili that looks downright archeological.  In theory, grinding whole dried chilis is possible as well, but these are not usually crisp enough to break down well in a kitchen blade grinder.  This recipe provides precise temperatures, so using a fry thermometer for this recipe will be helpful.  The oil will improve with age, up to a few months.  If, once your finished oil has mellowed for a few days, you find this batch too hot for your taste, you can add a quarter cup of oil to dilute it.

Not only is hong you a staple in Sichuan kitchens, used  as a condiment, a sauce and a flavoring, it is ubiquitous around Asia, even finding its way into the dim sum restaurants of Southern China and Hong Kong, where spicy foods are far less common.  Even in the United States, every Asian grocery will carry several kinds of red chili oil--not to be confused with the chili pastes of Sichuan or the red purees and sambals of southeast Asia.  However, you will find that home made chili oil, known as  hong you, (red oil) is far superior in both color and taste, and extremely easy to make. 

     1/3 cup dry red chili flake
     1 cup peanut oil
     1” x 1” pc of ginger, crushed to release flavor
     1 star anise

Heat oil in a saucepan or wok until it is about 275 to 300 degrees.
Remove from heat and drop in crushed ginger; when the heat has cooled to 250 degrees add the chili flakes and star anise and stir.  It may fizz for a bit, which is a sign the oil was hot enough.  If the oil smokes and the flakes turn a dark brown, the temperature was too high.

When your oil has cooled to warm, discard the ginger pieces and pour everything into a glass container making sure all the flakes are included.  In two or three days, the brilliant red oil will clarify, develop its full flavor and be ready to use.

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