If you’re just starting out on the journey to making Chinese food at home, you may have experienced some confusion over unfamiliar ingredients or sauces. Chinese chili sauces are essential for delivering the heat and flavors that make Chinese dishes so unique, but there are notable differences between Chinese sauces that are important to know and understand as you try to create these dishes in your own kitchen.
Types of Chinese Sauces
When it comes to getting that particular balance of heat and flavor in your Chinese home cooking, sauces are key. But there are many different types of sauces, pastes, and oils that all contribute to that iconic flavoring and help your dishes rise above the rest. It’s important to know the roles they play in cooking, food preparation, and preservation, so you can achieve the same great tastes in your own kitchen as you’ll find at your favorite restaurant.
Many of these sauces, particularly in Szechuan cuisine, one of the main eight regional cuisines of China, utilize hot peppers—and in many different ways. A recipe might call for chili oil, chili crisp, or chili sauce, and each choice will lend itself to a different dish with unique flavoring at the fore. So what’s the difference between them all? And how do you know which one to use in your next recipe? That’s where Fly By Jing can help, with a wide variety of flavors, oils, and spices to help you on the next great cooking adventure.
Chili oil is incredibly versatile. You may see it used within the dish itself, or as a condiment on the side. If you visit a dim sum restaurant, it may also be available as a dipping sauce for the meats or other dishes.
One of the reasons chili oil is so commonly used in the spicier Chinese dishes, like Szechuan chicken, is because it is made by infusing oil with peppers, which can add essential heat to your meal. The type of oil and the type of peppers you use can vary greatly, which means that chili oil can be adjusted to fit your palate and to match the meal.
What Can I Use Chili Oil For?
One of the reasons why chili oil is such a staple of Chinese cuisine, is that is can be used on and in so many dishes. Think of it like a hot sauce, but without the overwhelming vinegar taste that can keep a bottle on the shelf for years.
Instead, chili oil helps to boost the flavors that are already in the dish. It provides that little extra heat and flavor, without overpowering the dish or making it too hot to taste anything else.
How Do I Make Chili Oil?
Another reason to fall for the chili oil is that it’s both easy to make and easy to adapt. The regions that produce spicier foods utilize stronger spices in their chili oil. The type of oil and other spices you use all also contribute to the flavor you get in the end and what it can be used for.
To start, you’ll want to pick your oil. Olive oil is okay, but because it has a low smoke point, it can sometimes prevent you from getting all the great flavors out of your chili. More neutral and higher smoke point oils like canola oil and soybean oil are great options. The oil you pick does play a role in what your chili oil will taste like, so do some experimenting to find the right fit for your tastes.
Additionally, you will need chili flakes, the essential spices of cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, and Szechuan peppercorn, and optional spices, including ginger and cloves. Experiment to find the flavors you like most.
Then it’s a matter of infusing the spices and pouring the hot oil over your chili flakes. It’s important to be mindful of how hot your oil is—if it’s too hot, it can burn the spices—how long you infuse for, and what kind of extra spices you add in during the process.
There can be some crossover in chili ingredients and condiments, so it’s always a good idea to check the recipe you’re using to ensure that you have the right sauce or oil for the job. While there is some similarity between chili sauce and chili oil, in both the ingredients and the process, chili sauce stands on its own as a can’t miss dinner addition.
What Can I Use Chili Sauce For?
The short answer is, you can use your favorite chili sauce for just about anything. It even tastes good on tacos and pizza if you want to expand your use. Use it as a dipping sauce or condiment, add it to fillings, or spread it on sandwiches. It’s also a great addition to vegetable sautés or curries.
How Do I Make Chili Sauce?
For chili sauce, you’ll need chili peppers and chili flakes, garlic, oil, salt, sugar, and soy sauce. Start by slicing and grinding the peppers and then set them aside. Mince the garlic. Garlic plays a huge role in how flavorful your chili sauce is in the end, so watch for that important flavor and adjust accordingly.
Then it’s a matter of carefully heating and mixing your ingredients in oil, without letting them get too hot. At the very end, you’ll add your chili flakes and sugar for the final bursts of flavor and transfer the chili sauce into a clean container. It should last a few months when properly stored.
Chili crisp is growing more popular than ever, and it’s not hard to see why. Chili crisp is all about balance, both in taste and in texture. That’s why you get a delicious crunch when you enjoy a spoonful or put it over toast. It’s also why chili crisp perfectly blends that hot pepper warmth with the savory goodness of garlic and shallots.
Whether you’re just beginning to try Chinese dishes in the kitchen for the first time, or you have a batch of dumplings ready to go at a moment’s notice, chili crisp is an essential addition to every meal.
What Can I Use Chili Crisp For?
Truly, chili crisp goes great on everything. Because of the crispy texture that gives it its name, it has a more unique mouthfeel and makes dishes with more neutral textures feel exciting and interesting. Thanks to the hot chili, it matches with meals that are hot or cold, sweet or savory. Try it out on your breakfast fruit or dessert next time you’re feeling brave.
Can I Make Chili Crisp?
We’re going to be honest with you—chili crisp is kind of tricky to make. First of all, it can be difficult to source the exact ingredients that you need for your chili crisp, especially if you’re really looking for a quality product. Then, once you get into actually making the sauce, you’ll have to deal with a long resting period before it’s ready to use. To top it all off, your homemade chili crisp would only last up to one month before using.
If you’re looking for an easier way to get your hands on some chili crisp that you already know is going to be made with quality, delicious ingredients, Fly By Jing has what you need. Our chili crisp is crunchy, savory, and just tingly enough. Before long, you’ll be adding it to all your favorite dishes!
Chili is one of those versatile and delicious ingredients that will work with any of your favorite Chinese food dishes. When it comes to preparing unique and bold chili sauces and oils, you have lots of options. Explore our available spice and oil ingredients, as well, as you begin experimenting with the flavors you love at home.
These oils and crisps can help to make any meal feel truly special, but that doesn’t mean they’re difficult to make. In fact, you probably already have most of the essential ingredients in your kitchen. Though similar, each oil and sauce serves a different purpose and can help to boost the meal in its own special way.
Each of these oils and sauces at home can take your Chinese food home cooking to the next level, so grab some sauces from Fly By Jing and begin looking up recipes for your new favorites and adjusting them to fit your palate. Fair warning, though—once you start enjoying these delicious chili flavors on the regular, you’re never going to want to stop.