The Incredible Chinese Chile Oil

The year was 2007. The location, Rosslyn, VA. The occasion, my best friend's brother's wedding banquet. It was an honor to be invited to such a blessed occasion! I didn't know what to expect because this was no standard issue wedding banquet... No sir. Put that plate down- the buffet is closed and you don't get to pre-order your entree.

This was the traditional 7 course Chinese dinner- the type of meal you fast for because you want to destroy everything on the table. The trick is to pace yourself and eat only what you really like. The taro duck piqued my curiosity- heck I love taro bubble tea. Same thing, right? I prepared to chomp down when a flash of rustic red in a small, unsuspecting saucer caught my eye.

Chile Oil.

I had no idea what it was- but there was a TON of red pepper flakes involved and I am sucker for spice. My tablemates told me to try it on the duck. Next thing I knew, I was putting it on everything- down to the rice. It made the food magically even better! What was this divine creation?

Fast forward to 2011, taking advantage of the Border's going out of business sale. While perusing the culinary section, I stumbled across "Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More" by Andrea Nguyen. Everything in this book looks delicious! Plus, the boyfriend loves himself some dumplings.

Then.... I saw the picture of the beloved Chile Oil served so commonly in traditional Chinese cuisine. SOLD!! I read the recipe and my jaw dropped at the simplicity. It keeps forever, requires no refrigeration, gets better with time, and is the base for future sauces.

Heavenly! Post to come on the dumplings!

Chile Oil
from Andrea Nguyen

1 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup dried red chile flakes or coarsely ground dried chiles

Put chile flakes in a dry glass jar.

Attach a deep fry thermometer to small saucepan and add the oil. Heat over medium high heat until smoking hot (top 400 F) and remove from the heat. Wait 5 to 7 minutes for the temperature to decrease to 325ish and then pour the oil into the glass jar. The flakes will sizzle and swirl and then settle down.

Cool completely before covering and storing. Give it a couple days to mature before using. Keeps for months in the cupboard.