Category: asian

Ch-ch-ch-chili oil.

Okay, guys. This is another one of those “not really a recipe” recipes. Meaning it’s more like a how-to, not so much a full on recipe, just like that tarragon vinegar I made.

Homemade chili oil how-to.

Yep. Chili oil. An incredibly versatile condiment used for both cooking & as a “garnish” if you will.

Chili oil (also called hot chili oil or hot oil) is a condiment made from vegetable oil that has been infused with chili peppers. It is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, East and Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Particularly popular in Sichuan cuisine, it is used as an ingredient in cooked dishes as well as a condiment. It is sometimes used as a dip for meat and dim sum. It is also employed in the Korean Chinese noodle soup dish jjamppong.

Chili oil is typically red in color. It is made from vegetable oil, often soybean oil or sesame oil, although olive oil or other oils may be used. Other spices may be included such as Sichuan peppergarlic, or paprika. The spices are soaked in oil. Commercial preparations may include other kinds of oil, water, dried garlic, soy sauce, and sugar. Recipes targeted to Western cooks also suggest other popular oils such as rapeseedgrapeseed or peanut, and any dried or fresh chili peppers. The solids typically settle to the bottom of the container in which it is stored. When using chili oil, the cook or diner may choose how much of the solids to use; sometimes only the oil is used, without any solids.

Chili oil is commercially available in glass jars, although it may also be made from scratch at home.[1] It is usually available by request at Chinese restaurants.


You can use any dried pepper you like, from Habanero (WHOA!) to chipotle to Ancho to Thai chili pepper (WHOA again!). Depending on the pepper you use, your flavor will differ or range from spicy to mild & smoky to hot & fiery. And of course, that depends on your taste. But choose wisely- if you’re not a fan of hot stuff, don’t use a super hot pepper. The internet is a great resource for Scoville scale measurements & also to find out what peppers taste like what.

Ever since my debacle last year with searching for chipotles, I’ve since learned to never be without dried chilies. When I find them, I buy them. I haven’t in a while because it just so happens I have a full stash. But I have noticed that this year, dried peppers are much more common, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding any. If you grow your own peppers, you can dehydrate them yourself to use in flavoring oil or other recipes. I keep my stash in a quart jar, hidden in a cool, dark, dry place so they stay dry.

Dried chilies for homemade chili oil.

The oil you use will also depend on you. What will you be using the oil for? Olive oil is good if you’re using it as a garnish. Vegetable oil, corn oil or peanut oil are best if you plan on cooking with it. Sesame oil is not suitable for high heat, so it’s best used if you’re planning on sprinkling the oil on top of already cooked food (stir fry, maybe? Or fried rice?). Coconut oil can be used over relatively high heat, and has little flavor, so it might be a decent choice as well. Whole Foods Market has a good rundown of oils on their website, you might wanna take a peek.

All I did to make this oil was:

  1. First, I found a bottle to use. I bought this little bottle at Michael’s for like $1.20, but you can find ones like it just about anywhere, or you can use a jar.
  2. Then I heated a 1/4 cup of oil over low heat. I used corn oil myself. Once it was hot but (not scaldingly so), I added a whole dried chili & 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes, and then I let the chile get hot. I did NOT let it cook! I just heated it enough to release the oils & flavor.
  3. I removed it from heat & let it cool to room temperature. Then, using tongs, I put the whole chili in the bottle. I poured the chili oil over it, then poured more fresh oil in to fill the bottle, and then I let it sit in a cool, dark place for one week before using. The longer it sits, the hotter/more flavorful it gets.

Obviously, you can add more chilies if you’re using a larger container. And you’d use more oil, as well. Experimentation is the name of the game!

How to make an easy chili oil.

Asian-inspired quick pickles.

My grandmother had a thing for all things Asian. She was totally immersed in the culture. She read Pearl S. Buck books over & over again (The Good Earth being a favorite), collected cloisonné ginger jars & imported Japanese figurines, had a large Buddha statue sitting cross-legged in meditation pose next to her couch, had porcelain Geisha girl lamps and even had a mural of a bonsai tree on her living room wall. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg. She had tons of hand-held fans with Oriental scenes on them. She loved movies like Raise the Red Lantern & The Last Emperor. She loved jade. She loved Asian food, Asian history, Asian-inspired scents, Asian clothes; Cheongsams & kimono robes. She was a major Asiaphile, which I always thought was funny for a little red-headed Irish woman from the Bronx. But it just fascinated her, that’s all.

So, you can see why recipes like this immediately make me think of her, and how much she’d love it.

This is a kind of Frankenstein pickle recipe. Meaning that I got the idea from two sources: Food in Jars’ Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles and The Foodinista‘s posting of Momofuku Pickles and morphed the two into my own version of an Asian pickle. Both pickles are refrigerator pickles, meaning there’s no canning involved. Both pickles also use rice vinegar/rice wine vinegar (as far as I’m concerned, both are interchangeable). One uses hot peppers & some herbs, the other is just straight forward. I like a little added oomph in my life, so I decided to do the herb thing as well. I thought cilantro sounded fantastic; I made some green coriander pickles last summer that Jay would’ve definitely, without question, defended to the death had they been threatened in any way. So yeah, I knew cilantro was the herb of choice for me, although Marisa says you can also use mint instead, as well as use green onions or scallions in place of shallots. You can also totally omit all the extras and make it with just cucumbers/vinegar/sugar/salt if you wish.

These photos were taken after they sat in the fridge overnight. Feel free to cut your cukes thinner, if you want to use them as more of a condiment.


Makes roughly two pints or one quart


  • 5-6 smallish pickling cucumbers, cut into slices
  • 1 chili pepper, thinly sliced, or a 1 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes (optional, I left them out)
  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 small shallot, cut into thin slices
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
  • 4-5 sprigs of cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar


  1. Pack the cukes into the clean jar. Stuff the pepper in there too, or sprinkle the pepper flakes in on top.
  2. In a glass bowl, mix the rice vinegar, shallot, garlic, cilantro, salt and lime juice together. Pour the boiling water over it, and stir. Pour into the jar, and using a butter knife, poke the garlic/shallot/cilantro down amongst the cukes as well as you can.
  3. Screw a lid on the jar as tightly as you can, and give it a good shake or two to distribute things. Leave in the fridge for 24 hours to marinate before eating, toss after a month.

It’s a lovely, bright, crisp pickle. Very summery. Like I said, I omitted the pepper, but because it’s a fridge pickle, if you decide it’s too bland for you without the heat- you can always add a sliced up pepper. Then just put it back in the fridge and let it sit another 24 hours. Which is exactly what I did! Haha. Turns out, it needed a bit of a kick. So I had two red jalapeños left over from some other kitchen wizardry, and I took one, seeded it & removed the ribs/inner membrane, sliced it up into very thin slices and tucked them in the jar. If sliced thin enough one jalapeño is enough for three pint jars.

Just be sure to wear gloves when cutting hot peppers. It may sound silly, but bad reactions are common… some people can develop blisters and burns from even the mildest hot pepper, and even if you don’t, in the best case scenario the pepper oil will stay under your fingernails & in your skin for a while, causing issues when you rub your eyes or use the bathroom later on. Red jalapeños are slightly hotter than green ones, but also sweeter, just so you know. I’m aware that the jalapeño is not an Asian pepper, but you use what you’ve got, right? If you can get your hands on a Thai Chili pepper or a Goat Horn, then good for you. Otherwise, use what you have.

If you’ve got a rice vinegar that’s 5% acidity, you can most certainly change these to a be a shelf-stable, waterbath-process friendly pickle. My vinegar was only around 4.3% so I left them as fridge pickles. And did you notice these awesome jars!? I finally found them! The elusive Ball Collection Elite® 16-oz. jars. *siiiiiigh* And of all places, I found them in a Target. GO FIGURE. Not my Target, of course, but a Target like 5 towns away. After a year and a half of searching, they’re finally mine.

You can has really good white rice?

Yes, you can has!

Okay so I think white rice is one of those things people make and don’t really think about. Everyone just follows the usual 2-1 ratio of water/rice and makes it just the way it says on the bag. And usually, unless you’re making it in a rice steamer, it comes out in clumps or is really mushy or too dry and yet people just accept it. And you may feel stupid asking other people about it, thinking “How freakin’ difficult could it be to make rice!?” But yet in reality most people are probably struggling with the same problem, they either just don’t realize it or don’t know how/why. Well- no more!

Thanks to Daisy Martinez, who I’ve been watching on PBS for ages and who is now an official Food Network star… this is the perfect way to make white rice. Its a really easy and hands-off way to make absolutely perfect, fluffy and yet not clumpy and sticky white rice.

Fluffiest, tastiest white rice ever, folks…



  • ½ cup canola oil*
  • 4 cups long grain white rice
  • Water or broth to cover the rice (about 5 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons salt


  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, or a smaller vessel with a heavy bottom, over medium-high heat. Add the rice and salt, stirring to coat the rice with oil. When the rice starts to appear opaque and chalky, add enough cold water to cover the rice by the width of two fingers (about one inch).
  2. Bring to a rapid boil, and boil—without stirring!—until the water level reaches the level of the rice.
  3. Stir the rice once and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes.
  4. Stir the rice gently from bottom to top to fluff it up and serve. Perfect rice!

*I actually used sunflower oil which is high in Vitamin E and lower in saturated fats.

As far as storage goes, Daisy says:

I use long grain rice (like Carolina brand). Short grain rice has a different taste and texture; it is chewier. Some people rinse their rice one or more times before cooking it. I never do, and it seems to come out just fine. Storing rice is never an issue in our house; we go through it fast enough that it’s not a problem. If you’re keeping it, make sure it is in a cool place in a tightly covered container, like a large plastic storage container with a tight lid.

You can leave the rice covered in a heavy pot [after cooking] and it will stay hot and in good shape for about an hour.

To reheat rice that’s been refrigerated I prefer the microwave. Put the rice in a bowl, sprinkle a little water over the top, cover the bowl with plastic and cook until hot. You may also reheat rice in a skillet with a tight fitting lid. Add a couple of tablespoons of liquid and cook over very low heat until hot.

By the way- long grain rice has a higher concentration of amylose, meaning its better for diabetics. Amylose is one of the two components of starch, and is basically a polymer of glucose. Short grain is better for sushi or paella because its stickier.

And yeah, we all know brown rice is better for you, but sometimes white rice is just more taste-appropriate for dishes (i.e. jambalaya).

I served it in this particular instance with shrimp, snow pea and carrot stir-fry in a Hawaiian/Terikyaki marinade. But rice is also used in many hispanic/Spanish recipes. Now that you know the secret to amazing white rice, you can use it for anything.

Shrimp Stir-fry.

One of my favorite foods is Asian. I love Chinese food, be it greasy take-out Chinese or fancy sit down Chinese, and I love Japanese stir-fry & Teriyaki. Not too big on Thai or Korean, but I digress. Stir-fry is also the easiest thing to make at home. As long as you have soy sauce, ginger (either powdered, candied or gingerroot that you grate yourself could be used), garlic and some rice and veggies- you have a meal.

Fresh veggies!

The original recipe that I used for this particular meal is for beef stir-fry, but I wanted to use shrimp (which is again one of my favorites), so I amended it a bit (if you decide to use chicken or beef, cook it in the skillet with some oil before you make the veggies, then put it in a bowl and cover it to keep it warm… shrimp cooks really fast so the directions are different). But like I’ve said before, you can use anything: chicken, beef, shrimp or even tofu I suppose. Its totally open to interpretation. You can use any rice you like also. Brown rice, jasmine rice, white rice… whatever! Any vegetables you have can be used, I used carrots, onion and broccoli but you can throw in peas, snap peas, water chestnuts, anything you like. You see how versatile it is? It’s the perfect meal for nights when you have tons of stuff in the house but no clue what to make.



  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined and preferably tail-off
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium heads broccoli, or one frozen 16 oz. bag broccoli cuts or florets
  • 2 tbsp. grated gingerroot, or 2 tsp. ground ginger


  1. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, cornstarch, dark brown sugar, garlic and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add onion and stir fry for 5 minutes then add carrots and broccoli (cut into florets, or just cuts if using fresh) along with ½ cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp to skillet along with ginger and soy sauce mixture. Bring to a boil,  and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Make sure shrimp is opaque and pink, if so, then its  done. Serve hot over rice or noodles.

And there ya go. A quick, filling and delicious meal you can make with everything and the kitchen sink! Those shrimp look amazing, don’t they? Don’t you want to reach into your monitor and grab one? Yeah. I know. If only Willy Wonka’s attempt at sending food through the TV was feasible. Then you could indeed grab some of this yummy stir-fry. But thats okay, I’m sure the Big Mac you’re eating is really good, too.

Yeah, messy plating job in exhibit A, but dude, seriously- this ain’t Bon Appetit.


And uh, don’t forget to become a fan of Cupcake Rehab on Facebook! What are you waiting for? I said go become a fan!

“Leftover” fried rice.

I love Chinese food, and I’m one of those people who eats a lot of white rice with her main dish, so therefore I order a lot. But you always end up with a buttload of extra white rice that sits in the fridge, and no one eats it, and it gets thrown away. Not anymore!

Sara Moulton had this recipe on her show Sara’s Weeknight Meals last year and I made a mental note to make it. Tonight was one of those nights when it was hot, and I didn’t want to cook anything incredibly involved or complex, and so I made this. I used chicken because I didn’t have shrimp, but according to Sara, “any protein can be used.” I used peas, carrots,  corn, egg, chicken, minced garlic and since I didn’t have sesame oil, I threw some sesame seeds in with regular vegetable oil for the first step. You can throw in broccoli as well if you have it (which I wish I did), and use shrimp or any kind of “meat”, I guess- even strips of steak. I had some soy sauce left over from Chinese takeout as well so I used that, but if you have a bottle of it around then thats fine. Basically you could use anything in this, and it works.

This can be a side dish, without a protein in it, or a meal. Its great to use up any leftovers at the end of the month- leftover chicken, rice, veggies, etc.



  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups frozen shelled and deveined shrimp, halved (or chicken, or whatever you wish)
  • One 10-ounce package frozen peas
  • 3 cups leftover cooked long-grain white rice or Simple Boiled Rice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium. Combine the eggs with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and pour into the skillet. Cook, stirring, until scrambled, about 1 minute. Break into small pieces and transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add another tablespoon of oil, the onion, and garlic to the pan; cook, stirring 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and peas; cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the eggs.
  3. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly crispy.
  4. Stir together the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, and sesame oil; add to the rice in the skillet along with the shrimp, peas, and egg. Cook just until the egg is heated through and serve.

Its a really quick easy meal to serve up that makes use of all that stuff in your fridge/freezer and is delicious too.