hot pot memories … and szechuan fiery infused oil

ordering hot pot

chinese hot pot

because even now it has been quite some time that i left china and returned to austria, there are a couple of thing i thorougly miss … among them is hot pot and sharing hot pot with friends …

hot pot, that is first food stock – sometimes in two departments in a pot – one more and one less hot – whereas the spicy side contains among others a lot of chilies and szechuan pepper …
the szechuan pepper hotness is quite  different from chili, it is first a tingly feeling in your mouth and on your lips which can even become a slight numbness … but it is lovely!

for the chinese hot pot you order your favourite ingredients usually from a long list, among them vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, tofu and meats and dip them into the hot broth on your table, just like fondue.

usually hot pot is ordered in special hot pot restaurants and usually it is shared in a group … and eating together, faces increase the red hues … and it is quite like doing sports together, the endorphins at work, making it a fun group experience …

now, here in austria, the restaurant thing is usually very different …
and so … i just have to make my own szechuan chili oil stirring up fiery hot pot memories …

first i infuse the oil. in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, simmer 1 litre canola oil with a whole head of garlic, a nub of ginger, and a host of dried spices: star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, black and green cardamom. You want the garlic and ginger just fizzing over low heat, making sure neither browns or burns, for at least 2 hours, until the oil is deeply fragrant.

in the meantime you can prepare chilies and szechuan pepper.
for the chilies, just about any kind and level of heat will be fine, just make sure they’re roughly ground and you have a lot – at least 250 grams. for the latter, you want at least 100grams of the freshest you can find.

if you are not sure about quality, fresh szechuan pepper is quite tingly if you bite into it.
in a large steel mixing bowl, combine the ground chilies, the szechuan peppercorns, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. when the infused oil is ready, turn the heat up to high, and when the ginger and garlic are fiercely fizzing, pour the oil through a sieve into the dried chili mixture.
be careful, there might be hot foam.

as soon as the oil has cooled down a bit, i fill it into clean jars and store them in the refrigerator.
at the moment my favourite choice is on freshly sauteed spinach and steamed rice … enjoy!

szechuan chili and pepper oil