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Authentic Chinese chili paste - dying for it!

iprobeattoomuch Apr 21, 2010 10:06 AM

At dim sum restaurants (I'm thinking Manhattan's Chinatown; can't comment on others), there are usually little bottles of vinegar and soy sauce, and small containers of sambal, and some sort of course, oily-looking chili paste.

Does anybody know what that coarse/oily/chili mixture is called, or better yet how to make it? It looks simple enough (chili and oil) but tastes so nutty and complex, and strangely is not too spicy.

To avoid confusion: not talking about any variety of sambal... perfectly happy with my Huy Fong jars :-)

Unfathomable appreciation to anybody who can help!!!

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  1. w
    will47 RE: iprobeattoomuch Apr 21, 2010 10:47 AM

    Chili oil by itself is usually called hongyou (红油 - literally red oil) or layou / lajiaoyou (辣油 / 辣椒油- literally spicy oil or spicy pepper oil). It's my understanding that you still call it that when the chilis are left in, but I could be wrong. Fuschia Dunlop has a method for it in her book about Sichuan cooking (see link below). I think you just infuse vegetable oil with a lot of crushed chili after heating.


    You can either leave the chilis in or take them out. I imagine the Cantonese places use a slightly different kind of dried chili - you may need to experiment a little. The spice and flavor both will come from the chili. You should be able to buy a jarred version of this (with the crushed chili still in it) at the Chinese market.

    You could also try the much more complicated (and non-vegetarian) method using dried shrimp, chicken base, shallots & garlic here; not sure whether the type you're looking for is this one [for 'Hong Kong style hot-pepper oil'] or the more standard one:

    I think the dried shrimp should be the very small kind usually used in Chinese cooking (xiami - 虾米)

    2 Replies
    1. re: will47
      iprobeattoomuch RE: will47 Apr 21, 2010 12:23 PM

      That is GREAT! Will definitely try the more complicated one -- I love New Kam Man on Canal street, and it will finally give me the excuse to buy some of their dried shrimp (unless you care to recommend a better source -- though not sure if it matters with all that chili pepper)

      You wouldn't happen to know specifically which type of chili? I will indeed experiment, but I'm totally clueless about heat level, flavor, etc. If not, thanks anyway. So helpful!!!

      1. re: iprobeattoomuch
        will47 RE: iprobeattoomuch Apr 21, 2010 01:55 PM

        Most Chinese markets only carry a couple kinds of crushed chili, so see what you can find. I don't have a specific recommendation, though I know that dried Sichuan chilis (which should be a little hotter) tend to be a little harder to find than the generic kind.

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