My issue with certain spicy oils or sauces (which will remain unnamed) is that flavors in the sauce dominates the flavors in the dish, so that it tastes like an extension of the sauce, rather than the dish itself with added heat.What’s the solution? Make my own chili oil.

My grandma would almost always keep a covered glass bowl of homemade chili oil at her house, and it would be ready for eating when we had goodies like jiao zi (dumplings) or bao zi (steamed buns), or whatever else we wanted to add heat to.

Chili oil is easy to make, and you can control what goes into it, and not have ingredients like disodium 5′-inosinate in it. Make it at least a day ahead, to let the oil get fully infused with the flavors.

chili oil la jiao you

La Jiao You
Chili Oil
makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup dried hot chilies (like Thai or tien tsin /Tianjin peppers)
1/2-1 tsp white sesame seeds (optional)
1 cup oil, like canola, vegetable, or peanut
1 slice of ginger
1 stalk green onion, cut into 3-4 inch lengths

1) Grind up the chilies into a powder, using a clean coffee bean grinder, food processor, or blender (least preferred option). Make sure to wait for the ‘dust’ to settle before opening the lid, to prevent sneezing. Transfer chilies to a bowl and add the sesame seeds, if you are using them.

2) Add cold oil, ginger, and green onion to a pan. Heat on low heat; you don’t want the garlic to brown rapidly. Meanwhile, prepare a small mesh strainer over the bowl of chilies.

3) The green onion should be starting to brown after a few minutes. Once the edges of the scallions have browned, immediately dump the oil over the strainer, into the bowl with chiles.

chili oil la jiao you

4) Stir to combine all the ingredients. Fish the chunky aromatics out, then transfer the chili powder and oil to another jar if you wish. I usually don’t strain the chili powder from the chili oil, but if you want to do that, wait until the next day to do that. I store my oil at room temperature.

5) Best enjoyed after one day!

-As for the dried peppers, look for thin dried peppers at Chinese or Asian grocery stores. Italian red pepper flakes are a possible substitute as a last resort; they won’t make very spicy chili oil, though.
-Feel free to adjust the amount of chilies in this recipe, based on your spicy tolerance and whether you prefer to eat the spicy bits of chili (like me), or the spicy oil.
-If you like garlicky chili oil, add 2 cloves of chopped garlic with the aromatics, and be very sure to definitely heat the oil on low heat! Don’t strain the oil; pour directly onto the chilies when the garlic is barely brown.