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  • notesfrommusicians

Nico Muhly’s Chili Oil

I use this stuff on more or less everything: eggs, an otherwise sad bowl of quinoa, chicken, whatever. It keeps for a long time, has an aggressive look and therefore makes a great gift. It’s a little bit of a procedure, so if I’m going to be around for a while, I’ll make a lot of it. For proportions, I think it’s best to start with how much you want to make and work backwards from there; my general rule of thumb is that you want half as much oil as the total eventual volume. These amounts are if you want to make 4 cups.



About 2 dozen hot Thai red chilis, which you want to slice thinly

3 heads (bulbs) of garlic, peeled and minced or garlic pressed

2 cups of vegetable or canola oil

A cup and half of Sichuan chili flakes

A little bit of sugar

A little bit of soy sauce

A little bit of salt


You can do this with a mortar and pestle or with the back of your knife, but you want to combine the sliced chili and the salt such that it turns into into a kind of asphalty texture - quite chunky but such that the salt has gotten involved with most of the chili slices.

Heat about half of the oil on low heat, and add all the garlic. Keep an eye on it every 5 minutes for the next 25 minutes - you want it to be blonde but no darker.

Add the chili and salt mixture and carry on cooking it for 5 minutes or so until the chilis seem more or less cooked. You can turn up the heat a teeny bit here but make sure the garlic never gets too dark. Take it off the heat.

From here, it becomes about proportion to taste. I add a glug of the remaining oil along with a few tablespoons of the chili flakes and stir it around, repeating this process until the consistency seems right. Definitely you want to get most of the oil and flakes in, but if it starts looking too thick and weird, you can stop or add more oil, or whatever feels right at that time.

Let it cool partially, and taste it to see what’s up. At this time, I usually add a glug of soy sauce, and sometimes sugar, depending on my mood.

Wait until it’s totally cool, check it one more time to make sure it is more or less balanced, and then pour into jars.

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I adored these as a child, and now my own family gets very excited polishes them off in no time! They can make an easy dinner when feeding a crowd, as a lot of the prep can be done beforehand. They’re

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