From 1986 to 1997, Barbara Tropp owned San Francisco restaurant China Moon Café. She wrote two incredible cookbooks, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking (William Morrow 1982), and The China Moon Cookbook (Workman Publishing 1992), two of my cherished reference books on the subject of Chinese cooking.
Spicy Citrus Chile Oil and Ma-La Oil, are pantry staples in our kitchens. Both recipes are adapted from her latter cookbook and is a marrying of the Chili-Lemon and Chili-Orange oil recipes. In her original recipe, Barbara wrote, "Choose oranges or lemons with unblemished skins that have been kept as free as possible of waxes and dyes, then wash them carefully with a light liquid detergent, warm water, and an abrasive sponge. The effort may seem kooky, but it makes a difference. So too will a sharp vegetable peeler that will pare off the flavorful skin (zest) and not the bitter white pith." I have also grated the zest with a microplane, which I find easier than peeling and mincing.More often than not, on the days that I make the infused oils, I also find myself making Pickled Ginger and then Ginger Syrup with the ginger scraps: cast-off peels and nubs. All of these ingredients go into making our sought after Dragon Noodles.
Spicy Citrus Chili Oil
2 cup high-heat oil, such as corn, peanut or safflower
Finely minced zest of 3 large oranges, or 6 large lemons, preferably organic and unblemished
1/2 cup fresh, pungent dried red chili flakes
3 Tbsps Chinese preserved black beans, not rinsed, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
1 Tbsp Szechwan brown peppercorn pods, if necessary thorns and black seeds removed
1/4 cup Japanese sesame oil, Kadoya brand preferred
2 Tbsps ginger root, finely julienned
1/3 cup scallions, white and green, sliced into thin rings
2 plump stalks fresh lemon grass, pounded, then cut crosswise into 3-inch lengths
Stainless Steel Sauce Pan
Stainless Steel or Wood Spoon
1. Using a stainless steel knife, or with one made from a nonreactive carbon alloy, mince the citrus peel, chop the fresh ingredients and combine with the rest of the ingredients in a heavy, non aluminum 1-1/2 quart saucepan. Clip a candy thermometer on the rim of the pot. Over low heat, bring the mixture to 220°F, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or a wooden chopstick or a spoon made of stainless steel - absolutely no aluminum utensils! Let the oil infuse for about 20 minutes, keeping the temperature stable, checking to ensure the temperature does not rise above 235°F. Remove from the heat and let stand until cool.
2. Remove and discard the lemon grass stalks. Scrape the oil and seasonings (fondly called "goop") into an impeccably clean glass jar, with tightly sealing lid at room temperature, or if you live in a hotter climate, in the refrigerator. Or store the oil in a plastic squeeze bottle and the goop in a jar with enough oil to cover. The oil may turn cloudy, but its flavor will not be affected.
3. If made and stored properly the oil will keep for ages. If mold develops from a contaminated utensil or it smells off owing to age or heat, toss it out and make a fresh batch. Yield: 2-1/2 cups Servings: 40
|On the Left: Ma-La Oil and On the Right: Spicy Citrus Chili Oil