We're Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate, a brother and sister cookbook author team obsessed with all things China. We create authentic and accessible Chinese recipes for home cooks. See more...

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chili oil gives a kick


I like my food HOT.  And by hot I mean mouth-tingling, forehead-sweating, SPICY.  I first started reaching for the hot sauce when I lived in Waco, Texas and ate Tex-Mex every other night but I didn't get serious about my sauce until I lived in China. The two most common condiments on tabletops in China are hot sauce and vinegar. They are about as common as salt and pepper on tabletops here.  Sometimes it's chili paste but normally it's a little bowl of chili oil with a small spoon for spooning small amounts of the fiery stuff on your food .  
If you go to your grocery store's Asian food isle you're likely to see ten or more types of hot sauces.  A popular brand is Huy Fong's Sriracha Chili Sauce which some people call Rooster sauce because it has a big rooster on the label and a bright green cap.  It's thick and garlicky and not too spicy and great on eggs and noodles and... pizza.  It's also made in California and we've never seen it in China.  
We normally use chili oil when we want to add a spicy kick to a Chinese dish (which happens pretty often.)  The oil doesn't have a lot of flavor but it enhances the natural flavors of a dish and makes your tongue heat up just the right amount.  You can buy chili oil from the store in a jar or a bottle or make it yourself.  We like to make a big batch at home and keep in handy (it keeps for 2 months in a cool cupboard.)  Add a spoonful or two to a vegetable stir-fry or add a drop to a bowl of noodles and you won't be sorry.  Here's our easy recipe for chili oil:


Chili Oil


1/3 cup Sesame Oil
2/3 cup Peanut Oil
2 tablespoons Dried Chili Flakes


Heat the sesame oil and peanut oil in a wok over medium heat until a few chili flakes sizzle when added to the oil but don't turn black.  Add the chili flakes and then immediately remove the wok from the heat.  Cover the wok and let it sit over night or until cool.  You can strain out the chili flakes with cheesecloth or leave them in. We normally just leave them and let them rest at the bottom of the jar.  Store the  chili oil in a glass jar with a tight lid in a cool cupboard.  




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