Sunday, 15 June 2008

Chilli Oil (Red Oil)

I ran out of chilli oil which I want to make some Szechuan Dan Dan noodles, so I decided to make some myself.

Chilli oil is commonly called Red Oil in Szechuan and is an indispensable flavoured oil in Szechuan cooking. You can add this to noodles, wontons, stir fry or as a condiment. I think in Szechuan they use facing heaven chillies but if you don't have any you can use any chilli powder, chilli flakes or dried chillies blitz in a mini blender. The redder the chilli powder/ flakes you used, the redder the chilli oil.

As you can see the oil is bright red and fragrant which is by far better than any shop bought chilli oil and not too fiery hot so I can use as much as I like.

For the recipe I used:

1 1/2 cup peanut oil
2 shallots or 2 stalks of spring onion (only the white part), sliced
a small chunk of ginger, cut into slices
1 tbsp of Szechuan pepper, lightly crushed
2 star anise
3 tbsp of chilli powder or chilli flakes (I use 2 parts coarse Korean chilli powder (medium heat) + 1 part of hot chilli flakes)
2 tbsp of sesame seeds

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan till quite hot, add shallots, ginger, Szechuan pepper and star anise. Fry the spices for about 5 - 10 minutes at medium low heat till shallot and ginger turning light brown. Remove all the spices with a small metal sieve.

2. Add sesame seeds and continue frying till the seeds turn light brown. Turn the heat off. The oil is very hot, let it cool down for about 2 - 3 minutes. If the oil is too hot this will burn the chilli powder/flakes.

3. Add the chilli powder/flakes and keep stirring for a minute. Let it cool down completely then pour into clean jars. This recipe makes two small half pound jars. You can filter the oil if you wish, I quite like the sesame seeds floating on top and the dark chilli sediment on the bottom.

4. Storage: This oil will keep at room temperature for few weeks and longer in the fridge.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Quick Udon Noodle Soup

When I want something quick and easy this is the kind comfort food I will make. This udon noodles soup is super easy.

1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 packet of udon noodles
2 - 3 chinese leaves or choy sum(cut into strips)
1 - 2 tsp of wakame seaweed
3 - 4 chinese fish or cuttlefish balls (chilled or frozen)
2 -3 crab sticks
3 - 4 prawns (raw or frozen, with or without shell)
2 tsp of white miso paste slackened with a bit of water
1 stick of spring onion, shredded or chopped
1 tsp of sesame oil
pinch of ground pepper


Pour water into a saucepan and bring it up to boil. Add chinese leaves, fish balls and wakame. After about 1 - 2 minutes add udon, boil for another minute add crab sticks and prawns. When it is hot and bubbly. Turn heat off add miso paste, spring onion, sprinkling of sesame oil and ground pepper. If the soup is not salty enough for you, can add a dash of soy or dashi stock.

** if the seafood is frozen you can soak and defrost in some warm water for 5 minutes.
Other than the above mix you can add anything you like, cooked chicken, beef, mixed seafood etc.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Dan Dan Mian

Chinese: 担担

Dan Dan Mian (noodles) is a popular Chengdu (Szechuan) street food. Legend has it that around 1841 a hawker named Chin Bau Bau walking the streets selling noodles, carrying two big baskets (front and back) on his shoulder using a bamboo pole called dan in Chinese. With these two baskets, one was the cooker the other was the ingredients and bowls for the noodles. His noodles were so famous the name carries on till today.

This is a simple stir-in noodles mix with a sauce made with sesame paste, preserved salted vegetable, a little pork (some recipes do not use pork). You can make everything in advance and mix together. Nice serves cold/warm too.


Ingredients (per person)

80 g dry Szechuan plain noodles if you can get some, if not any Chinese noodles will do.


2 - 3 tbsp of cooked pork mince, cooked with garlic and some soy. (pork is optional, you don't need pork if you don't want to)

1 tbsp Chinese salted preserved vegetable, chopped. Traditional recipe use a preserved vegetable called ‘chuan dung chai - 川冬菜’ but I don’t think this is available in UK, can substitute with Szechuan Zha Chai - or Tianjin preserved vegetable - 天津冬菜 If you find it too salty, soak in water for a while.

1 – 2 tsp Chilli oil

1 tbsp Soy sauce (qty depends on your taste)

½ tbsp Sesame paste (Chinese or tahini)

1 tsp Sesame oil

½ tsp Chinese black vinegar

2 - 3 tbsp homemade pork/chicken stock (warmed) or hot water

Pinch of Ground Szechuan pepper (roast a few Szechuan peppercorns on a dry pan, then ground)

¼ - 1/2 tsp Garlic, mashed or grated


1 tbsp Chopped spring onion

1 tbsp Roasted peanut ( blitz in food processor or pound with a pestle and mortar)

Pinch of salt

Pinch of five spice


  1. Mix sauce ingredients together.
  2. Mix salt and five spice with the ground roasted peanuts.
  3. Cook noodles as per instruction.
  4. Mix cooked noodles with sauce.
  5. Top with some hot stock if you like the noodles to be wet than dry.
  6. Sprinkle on spring onion and spiced ground peanuts.

Three cups chicken

Chinese: 三杯雞

This is a popular Taiwanese recipe. The chicken is braised with an aromatic sauce which is salty, spicy, sweet and very fragrant. Anyone who has tried Vietnamese caramel pork will for sure love this recipe. Traditionally the recipe is for one whole large chicken. The 3 cups here refer to 1 cup of sesame oil. 1 cup cooking wine and 1 cup of soy sauce. For a healthy option, you can cut down the amount of soya sauce and sesame oil. Very simple recipe and moreish. The fragrance of sesame oil and wine will fill your kitchen for hours.


800g Chicken cut into pieces (any cut with or without bones, in this recipe I used 8 medium drumsticks cut into 2)

1/3 - 1/2 cup of soy sauce (qty to your taste)

1/3 - 1/2 cup sesame oil (must be toasted not cold pressed)

1 cup of chinese shaoshing or cooking wine (sherry or ginger wine is ok if chinese wine not available)

2 tbsp of sugar (qty to your taste)

1 small chunk of ginger cut into slices

5 - 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 red chilli, cut into strips

1 small handful of thai sweet basil


1. Add couple of tbsp of sesame oil in pan or wok, add garlic and ginger, stir till fragrant, then add chicken and stir fry till the pieces turned white on the outside.

2. Add remaining sesame oil, wine, soy sauce (taste before you add too much for your taste) and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil. Then simmer till the sauce is reduced and meat is cooked.

3. Stir in chilli and basil. Garnish with basil if wish.

Great with plain rice and plain stir fry chinese veg.