If my husband had his way, he would eat Asian food for every meal. Doesn’t matter what kind or region–he’s not picky. He just craves the perfect balance of all the flavors—sweet, sour, spicy and umami–that Asian cultures around the world have adapted in their own special way. And bonus points from him if whatever he is eating has noodles in it (especially hand-pulled).
Save for this one amazing dumpling shop in NYC, I am a bit more reluctant to dine at Asian restaurants, mainly because because they can be hit or miss. When they hit, holy shit—it’s amazing. But when they miss, I sort of never want to give it a try again. I know, not the best attitude for a FOOD WRITER to have, but at least I’m honest. And willing to change!
I have been doing a fair bit of reading lately around Chinese cuisine. Specifically, I just finished the book Fresh Off The Boat by Eddie Huang (Think Anthony Bourdain-type situations coming from an Chinese guy that sounds like he came straight off the set of the movie How High), and I’m almost done with Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuschia Dunlop (more of a travel and cooking memoir of her years living on and off in the Sichuan region of China). Both books have recipes for dan dan mian, or dan dan noodles, a dish of noodles topped with a spicy meat topping seasoned with green and red sichuan peppercorns. It’s dish my husband loves to eat, and I decide to figure out how to make it from scratch at home.
The first step: making my own Sichuan chili oil. Details after the jump.
For the recipe, I used this one found on Food 52 by Mandy @ Lady and pups. I did not stray too much from the recipe, except for when I ran out of or could not find ingredients. In my case, I had to swap olive oil for vegetable oil because I ran out at the last minute, and I was not able to source green Sichuan peppercorns in the Bay area, so I only used the red ones, and more of them.
The recipe starts by simmering the sliced scallion, ginger, crushed garlic, star anise, cinnamon and red peppercorns in a small pot over medium heat, and let it go until the garlic and scallion turn light brown.
Next come stirring in the ground cumin, coriander and chili flakes for a minute, until the chili flakes get a little darker. Then remove from stove and let sit for as long as possible before using.
When ready to use, pour a small amount of the chili oil through a strainer before serving to catch any ingredients. Leaving the flavorings in allows the ingredients to put the most amount of flavor into the chili oil.
For photography’s sake, I strained my oil to see how the color of mine compared to my average store bought oil. I came pretty damn close.
And let me tell you, the leftover oil sat for a week and got EVEN BETTER. This stuff should stay good forever, since it is just flavored oil. I would use this over store-bought Chinese pork dumplings with some chicken stock and Chinese black vinegar for a killer dinner soup. Or just over scrambled eggs. In butter on toast. Ugh, so many ways to use it! Can’t wait to show you how it all came together to form dan dan noodles. Next post!
: A delicious, versatile oil that works well with Sichuan and other Chinese recipes.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (olive oil works, and I imagine peanut oil would)
- 1 scallion, cut into segments
- 2 slices of ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 small piece of cinnamon, approximately 1 inch long
- 3 teaspoons green Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
- 1 teaspoon red Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chili flakes (preferably Sichuan or Korean)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- Combine vegetable oil, scallion, ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, green peppercorn and red peppercorn in a small sauce pot. Set over medium heat and let the ingredients fry in the oil until the garlic and scallion are faintly browned.
- Add the chili flakes, ground coriander, and cumin. Evenly stir and keep frying for another minute until the chili flakes slightly darken in color. Turn off the heat and set it aside (the longer it sits, the better the flavor).
- Strain before using. Store in a covered container at room temperature.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)