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Jan 15, 2009 08:58 AM

Good hot chili oil brand?

I just made Fuschia Dunlop's recipe for dan dan noodles for lunch. (It was delicious, thanks to all who steered me towards her cookbook!) My only problem was that even after adding 3 tablespoons of chili oil, it wasn't only just barely spicy. I think the problem was a lame-o bottle of chili oil - my bad for being lazy and getting Roland brand at the local supermarket instead of making the trek down to Chinatown for the real stuff. Any suggestions for a good brand to replace it with? I ended up ading some sriracha to make up for it. My goal is eventually to replicate the dan dan noodles at Szechuan Gourmet, which damn near burn your mouth off (but in an oh-so-flavorful way), and this half-alarm chili oil just isn't going to cut it.

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  1. I'm not a huge fan of infused store-bought oils because they're never quite right. Have you thought of simply slicing up a habanero to add to the noodles? We have a jar filled with habaneros from a local farm which I sliced, put into a mason jar, added some sea salt, shook up, then filled to the top with olive oil to use as needed (kept in refrigerator).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      It's definitely not a chunks of pepper type of dish, so I'd rather use flavored oil than a sliced pepper. When you jar your habaneros, does the olive oil they're sitting in end up spicy too? I once made some chili vodka that way (for mexican chocolate cocktails: spicy vodka + creme de cacao + milk + splash of amaretto + dash of cinnamon), but not sure if oil would draw out the flavor the same way or if you'd need to cook it or infuse it for an extra long time. Anybody know?

      1. re: Emmmily

        The oil itself is spiced, and would be even more so if I left it on the counter (we've had the jar for 3 months now, and it's 1/4 used...I hope it lasts a few more months!). The slices are about 2mm thick, so it's not that chunky, but wouldn't be ideal for something with a smooth sauce.

        Otherwise, the method Channa wrote below works well too. Just be sure that the dried chiles are strong and fresh (I've had some which were completely tasteless).

    2. It's so easy to make your own? Chili and oil are super cheap.

      1. Another vote for making your own! Those from shops so often taste old, or even rancid.

        Coarsely grind some dried red chillies, or use dried red pepper flakes, add some oil, and heat on low until the chillies soften a bit and release colour into the oil (about 5 to 8 minutes). Pour into a clean jar and add more oil to taste. The heat is determined by the chilli you use. The oil gets hotter as it ages, as well.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Channa

          I have always heard that there is danger of food poisoning when making flavor infused oils, be it ginger, garlic, chili, or whatever. I notice the Dunlop recipe heats the oil before pouring over the chili's. Is that to kill any bacteria? Anyone have any good or bad experience on this?

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            If the heated oil is capped before it cools to room temperature, condensation will form and the water will begin the process of becoming rancid, which if left to be, will be a smelly, yucky jar that is obviously not edible. The reason for using dried herbs instead of fresh is to keep water out, thereby preventing condensation and rancidity (and the reason one should strain the oil instead of putting in a pretty rosemary branch, for example, as the branch has some residual water in it and funky spore-like things will start growing around the branch eventually, or about 6 months later when rediscovered in the gift recipient's pantry).

            Heating the oil before pouring over chiles (or any herb or spice) is to get the flavour oils from the substance (here, chiles) to be released faster. The potential problem here is burning the chiles if the oil is too hot, as that too would taste bad.

            Olive oil has vitamin E, which is a natural preservative. A touch of sea salt can also be added as a preservative.

            Warm oil over dried herbs/spices, a touch of salt, allow to cool before capping, and enjoy!

            1. re: Caralien

              I wasn't really worried about rancid oil, it can taste unpleasant, but probably wont kill you. But seems to me undried habaneros are exactly the kind of vegetable warned against in the link below on botulism poisoning. It states "The "preserved-in-oil" botulism problem happens when you try to preserve high-moisture vegetables in oil. Garlic is the only proven culprit, but any other non-dried vegetable in oil is a possible source."

              and here

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                To prevent botulism in canning (or jarring), keep 1/2-3/4" of air in the top of the bottle or jar. Botulism thrives in the absence of oxygen.

                As far as oils go, if the bottle is used regularly and tapped off, this shouldn't be an issue.

                1. re: Caralien

                  NO! Air at the top of the jar is inconsequential - The oil itself is enough to provide an oxygen-free environment. However, the whole point here is moot as chili oil is made with dried chilies, then also heated - further drying the chilies - even browning them a bit, so it's perfectly safe because of the lack of water. Botulism = no oxygen, low acidity, water, relatively low osmotic stress (low salt and sugar levels), and usually warm temps, though some strains can work in cool temps - but very slowly.

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    Mine are in the refrigerator, as stated in my initial post. The problems occur with pantry items and fresh produce.

                    from the mefi post (same one you quoted with the garlic):

                    "Botulism requires ALL of the following conditions to grow:
                    temperature above 40F (possibly now 36F)
                    pH above 4.6
                    available water (not bound to high sugar or salt content)
                    anaerobic environment"

                    Well, there's air, so it's not anaerobic. It's refrigerated, so under 40F. pH? no clue, as oil doesn't have pH. Then there's the sea salt.

                    I really doubt my habaneros will kill me. But if this is worrisome to you, don't try it.

            2. Along the lines of making your own. I am pretty sure that Dunlop has a recipe in her sauces section. Of course I don't have the book handy and am a bit too lazy to look through the COTM thread.

              2 Replies
                1. re: beetlebug

                  Unfortunately I got the recipe online (it was the version from Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper). Land of Plenty is at the top of my wishlist though, for sure.

                2. You can make your own.
                  I make some and still enjoy a jarred variety, depending on how I'm gonna eat it. One of my favorites is called Tia Chieu Sa-te. Its actually made in California by Huy Fong Foods inc. and comes in an 8oz plastic jar with rooster at the front and a green top.
                  I haven't seen this particular size for awhile. It seems that it was replaced with a taller jar with a blue cap (haven't bought one yet). Strangely the company website ( doesn't list this product. They have a siricha, sambal oelek, and a garlic chili sauce.
                  Tha tia chieu looks similar to the chili garlic
                  but its dark brown and tastes quite different (and to me, better).

                  I just bought a Thai product last week; Tuong Ot Phi Dau, Fried Chili In Oil. Its in an octagonal plastic jar and looks quite tasty. Haven't opened it yet...will let you know.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: porker

                    That name is actually Vietnamese. Be sure to report back if you like it; it will be another condiment for me to try!

                    1. re: Rubee

                      I think the product is aimed towards a Vietnamese market as theres a picture of pho on the label. The only English is "Fried-Chili in Oil" and "Good for Chinese dishes". There's some Chinese and Thai script as well. Its made by Global Food Trading inc out of Bankok Thailand.
                      I couldn't wait for a food test, so I opened it last night and tasted it with a spoon. Not so much of a chili oil, but rather fried chili flakes in a bit of oil. Really great flavor, but on its own, quite hot (much hotter than siricha). It'll be great as a condiment, but as a dip, I'll mix it with soy. I prefer the Tia Chieu though.
                      Here's the Tia Chieu (I need another jar...) and the Thai side by side

                      1. re: porker

                        Ahhh, 1st try had the pict at 2.4M...
                        here they are...hopefully

                        1. re: porker

                          Porker! You do in deed have a bottle of Huy Fong's Pepper Sa-Te Oil. They havn't made this in more than ten years, and I finished my last bottle 6 years ago!

                          Please, where did you get this?

                          1. re: Jackofwits

                            I usually do my oriental shopping in Montreal's Chinatown, or the relatively nearby southshore.
                            Actually its been quite awhile since I purchased the green lidded sa-te sauce. I'd be embarassed to say it was ten years ago, but it might be in that timeframe; I always bought this stuff 6 at a time, and they last from 6 to 10 months each. I'd actually waste a bit at the bottom as it dried out a bit, but I've been rationing this last bottle as I haven't seen it around for quite awhile (I assumed it was replaced with the blue lid product).

                            So lets see, 5 bottles x 8 months avg = 40 months, plus the rationed last bottle for about 16 months, makes it about 56 months, 'bout 4.5 years or so.

                            Everytime I'm in the store, I look for the characteristic green lid and rooster, "Pepper SA-TE Sauce --- Tia Chieu Sate". Since I don't find it, I try something different each time.
                            Besides the Tuong Ot Phi Dau pictured above, I'm presently working on a homemade mason jar of chili oil picked up in a pastry shop in Chinatown. Amazing stuff. I also have a fancy schmancy Vietnamese 'oil n chili' jar with lemongrass - not as good...

                            I will keep this in mind and let you know if I see anything!

                    2. re: porker

                      Hi Porker,

                      Unfortunately Huy Fong hasn't made their Pepper Sa-Te sauce or oil in 10 years. They said it was too difficult or too much trouble. But after 10 years of searching I found the bottle you have. It's not Huy Fong Brand, but Tia Chieu Sa-Te made by Vi Hao Food Co.. Huy Fong has the Roster symbol and green caps or lids. The Vi Hao symbol is a unicorn in profile, with a blue lid. Strangely enough after visiting many, many Asian groceries big and small, I found it in Easton, PA when visiting my aunt! Can be found it at Viet Hoa Oriental Grocery Store is at 427 Northampton Street, Easton, PA 18042, 610-515-9935. Don't know if they ship, but can’t hurt to ask. One of my bottle I carried back from Easton did leak. I would suggest double zip lock bagging these, or any sauce or oil that has to travel.

                      The taste is almost as awesome as the Huy Fong! I’m one happy camper having Pepper Sa-Te back in my life. Try it as a chicken marinade, among its many uses and virtues.

                      Huy Fong, please bring your Pepper Sa-Te oil and sauce back. We love your products!

                      Ken Jacowitz

                      1. re: porker

                        I'm pretty sure huy fong stopped making the sa-te. It used to be my favorite! They also add preservatives to all their products now which make them taste off (to me anyway).