Red hot chili peppers (“mark pick” or “mark pet” in Lao) of all sorts are a vital component of Lao food – in fact, I can’t imagine what Lao food would be like without them. It is eaten fresh (ouch!) to complement many meals – sometimes dipped in “khapi”/”gupy” (shrimp/crab paste) to accompany Lao soups such as “khao poon” (vermicelli noodle soup) or Lao pho, or simply raw to punch up the already spicy flavours of a larb meal, etc.
Fresh chilies of various varieties, sizes, shapes and colours are often grilled (along with other ingredients) and then pounded with a mortar and pestle to make the famous Lao “jeow” (Lao spicy condiment/dip/relish/sauce) which exists in various forms and served with most meals. Chilies are also dried and then stored for future use, or pounded to make chili flakes and chili powder which are then used in recipes.
I love eating chilis in all its incarnations (my experiences have taught me to enjoy it sparingly), and my personal favourite use of chilies is to transform them (ground chili powder or chili flakes) into a sublime and versatile chili oil – brewed/infused with sliced/diced ginger and garlic – and to heighten the spiciness of the oil, I also add finely chopped fresh red hot chilies into the mix.
The recipe for chili oil is quite straightforward – made from heating cooking oil with dried ground chili powder/chili flakes and chopped garlic, but I’ve added chopped ginger into the equation because I simply adore the taste and smell of ginger and think that it marries extremely well with the garlic and chili, giving the chili oil concoction/condiment a lovely divine aromatic and flavoursome character/essence.
Additionally, you might also want to experiment and consider adding your other favourite herbs and spices, including shallots, onions, whole black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, star anise, a sprig of thyme, slice of lemon peel, etc.
The following recipe is easy to do but a lot of time is invested in the preparation – slicing/dicing/chopping the ingredients by hand neatly which is what I have done and recommend because it looks and tastes so much better.
This ginger and garlic chili oil will add a deliciously rich, spicy and fragrant flavour and colour to your favourite dishes and recipes, including fish head soup, congee, pho, khao piak sen, etc. Use it sparingly (only a teaspoon or a few drops will suffice) and cautiously, and store it in a cool safe place.
- 3 whole heads of garlic
- 1 piece of ginger
- 20 fresh red hot chilies
- 100 grams of ground chili powder
- 750 ml of sunflower cooking oil
- Peal and wash the cloves of garlic and then slice them thinly and neatly into fine pieces. Wash and clean the ginger and slice them neatly into fine pieces. Wash and thinly slice the fresh chilies also.
- In a saucepan, add the sunflower cooking oil. Bring to low-medium heat and then add the chopped/sliced garlic, ginger and fresh chilies. Stir regularly and gently (be careful it does not splatter into your eyes), ensuring the heat is not too high and the contents does not burn.
- When the garlic and ginger have turned to a light golden brown colour, add the ground chili powder.
- Continue to stir the mixture regularly and gently at low-medium heat until the garlic and ginger have turned a lovely light golden colour. Turn off the heat and let the oil mixture cool down.
- When the oil has cooled down completely, transfer the mixture into a large sterilized glass jar/container.
- Seal with a lid and store in a cool safe place. Enjoy sparingly.
Ingredients you’ll need:
Did you know?
- The most jalapeno chilli peppers eaten in one minute is 16 by Alfredo Hernandes (USA) at the La Costeña Feel the Heat Challenge in Chicago, IL, USA on 17 September 2006. 1
- Allicin, which is naturally released from garlic when the cloves are crushed or chopped, helps strengthen the immune system as well as containing antibiotic and antifungal properties. 2