Chilli Oil

One of my favourite food memories involves Chinese restaurants. When I was younger, a trip to London Chinatown was an event. The sight of roasted ducks, chickens and pork hanging in the restaurant windows and the aroma of spices and wok cooking were very inviting.

A weekend visit to a Dim Sum restaurant was a reward for a hard week´s work, or a impromptu family get together.

During the week, if I was in the area, I would treat myself to a take-away Roast Duck and Rice and always ask for a small pot of Chilli Oil (or Chilli in Oil).

Good Chilli Oil is wonderful, the slight sweetness that accompanies the roasted hotness is something remarkable. A good Chilli Oil has “body”.

Sadly, most restaurants no longer serve the Chilli Oil that I grew to love. They have replaced it instead with Chilli Infused Oils.

These oils are just hot, without a hint of roasted flavour or a balance of sweetness. Sometimes they just provide you with a small bowl of reddish oil that has been seeped in chilli and pass that off as Chilli Oil.

Over that past few months I have been trying to create a new Chilli Oil. I wanted something that would give me the roasted hotness, sweetness and saltiness that I tasted in my younger days, yet be a bit more daring and refined.




Because I had no base recipe of ingredients to work from, I had to start from scratch. I knew that it would obviously contain Chillies and Oil. :biggrin:

The first step was to make an acceptable Chilli Infused Oil, later I would look at the other ingredients that would give my Chilli Oil its character.

I knew that the chillies had to be dried ones, these would give the oil its wonderful colour and aroma.

Various test ensued with different dried chillies. “Bird Eyes” chillies were far too hot to do anything with, they would only overpower the finished product. Dried Thai Chillies were also too hot and none of the mentioned chillies had any roasted aroma.

On one test to get the “roasted aroma”, I dry pan roasted a selection of chillies, then infused them with hot oil.

The result was a bitter tasting oil. Not only had I dry roasted the chillies, I had also further cooked them by adding the hot oil, making them bitter.

I would need to watch the temperature of the oil that I was adding, too hot and it would “deep fry” the chillies further, making them black and brittle.

Further tests continued with different chillies and oils at different temperatures.

Finally after many trials I found a dried chilli that wasn’t too hot, yet had a roasted flavour that was obtained by the heat from the hot oil. Dried Cayenne Chilli, or Cayenne Pepper.




There was no need to dry fry them at all! In fact, these chillies are actually semi dried, meaning that they still have a tiny amount of moisture inside, the membranes remain slightly chewy. I had found my chillies at last!. :biggrin: All I had to do was blitz them and add oil.

There was really no question regarding the oil. Olive Oil proved too overpowering, so I chose Sunflower Oil for its neutral flavour.

To infuse anything, the liquid ingredient, in our case the oil, has to be hot. (Just like making tea, which is basically an infusion of hot water and tea leaves).

As with making tea, the temperature of the water is very important. The ideal temperature should be between 75º and 83ºC  depending on the tea leaves used, and not boiling water.

In order to get the oil to infuse with the dried chillies and also “cook them” and give them that “roastiness”, trials proved that 130ºC was an ideal temperature, any higher and the chilli flakes would become bitter, any much lower and they would become “soggy” and retain too much moisture and hence remain chewy.

Finally I had the infused oil worked out, the hardest part was yet to come.

Body and Sweetness. The later I knew would be provided by sugar, but what amount? I didn’t want the sweetness to play the lead role, it had to be a co-star in my Chilli Oil play.

For the “body” I needed something that had its own unique flavour and charm. I tried a host of dried Chinese shrimps, Japanese scallops, and French mushrooms. They were good, all high in concentrated flavour, but the best was something that I would find surprising and closer to home.. Ham.

Not any Ham, but the best ham in the world. Jámon Ibérico de Bellota. Spanish dry cured and aged acorn fed ham.




Jámon is normally cut in to wafer thin strips and enjoyed as is, normally with a chilled glass of Sherry or a cold beer. :biggrin:

I cut the ham in to dice because I would later need to blitz it so that it could meld with the other ingredients and be easier to futher cook.

Fresh Ginger and Galangal would lift the flavour of the ham and also add a depth and flavour of their own.

Garlic would also be a player. I tried fresh garlic and fried garlic but found that Garlic Powder gave the Chilli Oil a better flavour.

Shallots are great in many Asian dishes, they have a sharper flavour and hotness than their cousin, the Onion.

Once I assembled all the “body” ingredients I decided to blitz them all together then cook them. However I found that I had instead created something which had no identifiable flavour. It just turned out to be a mix with no beginning or end.

Then I decided to treat the shallots apart from the other ingredients and chop them by hand instead of blitzing them, this way the end result would have different textures as well as identifiable aromas which when paired together would be pleasing.




So finally I had put together the recipe ingredients and after various tests using varying amounts of ingredients, and ending up with either too sweet or searingly hot end results (all tested on the Laocooks 😆 ), I came up with a recipe that I was proud of. :biggrin:

We now use this recipe and serve it in the restaurant.

To make the sauce at home, try to find dried Cayenne Chillies, if you use another chilli, the end result may be hotter than expected, so be careful! :pinch:

Chilli Oil.



  • 70g Dried Cayenne Chilli
  • 400ml Sunflower Oil
  • Dash of Sesame Oil
  • 100g Jámon de Bellota, diced (or another good quality aged dry cured ham such as Prosciutto)
  • 40g Ginger, diced
  • 55g Galangal, diced
  • 25g Garlic Powder
  • 10g Table Salt
  • 60g Chopped Shallots
  • 50ml Thai Mushroom Soy Sauce
  • 65g Sugar



Blitz the Chillies, being careful not to “over do it”. You want some small flakes remaining and not a complete powder.




Place the flakes in to a heat proof jar.




In a blender blitz the Ginger and Galanagal then add the Jámon (do it in that order) and continue to blitz until well mixed.




In a pan over a moderate flame add a little oil and cook the Jámon mixture, breaking it up with a spoon. Add the Shallots and mix well. Turn down the heat and keep stirring the ingredients around the pan. Slow cooking is the technique required here, too fast and you risk burning the Jámon, you want the flavours of the Ginger and Glanagal to fuse with the ham.




When the Shallots have softened add the Garlic Powder, Salt and Soy Sauce. Continue to slow cook, stirring all the time until the mixture darkens. Add the Sugar and continue to slow cook.






The sugar will melt and bind all the ingredients together, in to almost a jam consistency. When the mixture is nice and “sticky”, taste and correct seasoning with more salt if preferred. Remove from the pan and allow to slightly cool.






This mixture has a whole host wonderful aromas. The acorn flavour of the Jámon, the slight spiciness and sweetness of the Ginger and Galangal, the pleasant and not overpowering pungency of the Shallots and Garlic, the saltiness of the Soy Sauce and Salt all wrapped up with the melted Sugar. Lovely! :cheerful:

Whilst the mixture is cooling, add the dash of Sesame Oil to the Sunflower Oil.




The Sesame Oil will give the sauce a nice “nutty” aroma. Heat the oils in a pan.




Heat the oils to 130ºC.

There is no “guessing” when it comes to correct temperatures, so its good to invest in a cooking thermometer, they are really helpful and will only set you back a few Euros.




When you have reached the correct temperature, turn off the heat and pour the oils in to a heat proof jug. The reason for pouring it to the jug is that the pan will continue to heat the oil, taking the temperature past the desired 130ºC.

If you have inadvertently gone over 130º, just allow the oil to rest for a minute until it goes down to 130º.

Slowly pour the oil in to the heat proof jar that is holding the Chilli Flakes. Do this slowly.




The chillies may crackle a little with the heat, this is normal. Continue to SLOWLY add the oils.






Once all the oils have been poured in to the jar, allow to rest for about 5 minutes.




The flakes will cook and infuse in the hot oils then slowly drop to the bottom of the jar, the oils will now take on a toasted amber colour, turning in to a toasted red.

Once most of the flakes have sunk to the bottom, add the sticky Jámon mixture then give the ingredients a gentle stir.

Allow to cool before closing the lid. The sauce can be eaten at once but the flavour will improve after two days, once the ingredients have had a chance to get to know each other.

Store away from direct sunlight in a cupboard or in the fridge. If stored in a fridge you may get some “haze” in the oil, but this will disappear once the sauce has come to room temperature.

Enjoy. 😉





13 thoughts on “Chilli Oil

  1. Hola Ed, and thanks for your comment.

    Cannot seem to open your link, it would be interesting to see.

    I hope that you get a chance to try our Chilli Sauce! :biggrin:

  2. Hola… (I’m sorry no speaking  english T_T) espero me entiendas! =) hace unos dias que encontre esta pagina de casualidad desde ahi no paro de entrar tienen cosas muy muy interesantes que me brindan ideas muy buenas para mis estudios (Gastronomia) me gustaria saber mas de ustedes y de las cosas nuevas que crean… aqui en mi pais tenemos diversos tipos de ajies secos y creo que podria pobrar tu receta con insumos de mi pais  a ver que tal sale..!! ^^,  bueno me despido ojala puedas responder mi comentario.  =)

  3. Hola Diego,

    Me alegra mucho de que te guste mi página. ¿De dónde eres?. Estamos trabajando en la provincia de Cádiz (Andalucía, España), desde hace 5 años. Anteriormente desde el año 2000 yo estuve trabajando en Chipiona.

    Prueba las recetas, ojalá te gusten!!

  4. Hola viena! gracias x responder. Soy de Perú. Mira no conosco España aun, pero me gustaria hacerlo, es mas si tuviera la oportunidad de hacer mi practicas o trabajar aya, me daria mucho gusto que sea con ustedes. Tienes muchas cosas que me podrian enseñar =) y claro que voy a probar tus recetas me gustaria que me escribieras a mi correo asi podre saber el tuyo y compartirte algunas recetas que tengo. (

  5. What exhaustive research and dedication to the end chilli oil. Repect!
    Can’t wait to try you version of the dipping oil with a bowl of Pho.
    My son, Louis is looking over my shoulder, salivating over the thought.

  6. Hola Dillon and thanks for your comments.
    Chilli Oil was a very good project, which I enjoyed very much. Since posting the recipe, I have continued to work on it and have now found that better results (more smooth texture) can be obtained by freezing the (chunk of) Jámon for a while then grating it on a thin blade, this achieves a more velvety texture.
    It a bit too hot here for Pho at the moment, but when the time is right I will definitely be using the Chilli Oil in mine too! :biggrin:

  7. Pingback: laocook » Blog Archive » King Burger

  8. Hi Rosamundwo, and welcome to Laocook.
    You can also use dried scallops in the recipe.
    The reason I used Spanish Ham is that I have so much of it around!

  9. can anyone advise on how much dried shrimp to substitute for the ham? ad should i soak them first or use them straight from the packet?

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