100g dried red chillies (preferably Sichuan)
500ml sunflower oil

Chilli oil is an essential ingredient in many Chinese regional cooking styles. One of the most popular brands in Hong Kong is Koon Yick Wah Kee; it’s readily available in most Asian shops, although I prefer to make my own. Chilli oil is made with dried chillies and it’s not difficult to prepare, but dried chillies burn easily so never cook them over high heat – once they’re burnt, you have to start all over again. Just be patient and you’ll be amply rewarded. I’ve used Sichuan dried chillies for this recipe. If you prefer a hotter chilli oil, combine them with dried bird’s eye chillies or dried habaneros. Make sure you have your windows open or rangehood on, or the chilli fumes will make you cough.


1.Snip the stems off the chillies and discard any exposed seeds.
2.Heat a wok over low heat, add 1 teaspoon of the oil and the chillies.
3.Stir-fry for 5-7 minutes until the chillies are fragrant and a shade darker.
4.Transfer the chillies to a plate and leave to cool.
5.Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chillies into coarse flakes (this can also be done in a food processor) and transfer to a heatproof bowl.
6.Heat the remaining oil in a wok until it begins to smoke, then immediately turn off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
7.Pour the oil over the chilli flakes and stir carefully so it doesn’t splash.
8.Leave to cool for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.
9.Strain the oil through a fine sieve into an airtight container.
10.Chilli oil will keep for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.

Edited extract from Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan
Published by Murdoch Books, distributed by Allen & Unwin
RRP $55
Photography by Greg Elms.

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