Condiment’s heat level ‘shockingly pungent’

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Barbara Tropp's China Moon Chili-Orange Oil is hot and fragrant with orange, a condiment to drizzle on any food that could use some zing, but especially Asian dishes. (Carl Davaz/The Register-Guard)
Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Chili-Orange Oil is hot and fragrant with orange, a condiment to drizzle on any food that could use some zing, but especially Asian dishes.
Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Chili-Orange Oil is hot and fragrant with orange, a condiment to drizzle on any food that could use some zing, but especially Asian dishes.

You might know someone who likes things spicy. And by spicy I mean HOT – the sort of person who will put hot sauce on anything and everything.

After I’d bought my last batch of crushed, dried red pepper flakes from the bulk bin, I added my usual amount to pizza sauce. It was much hotter than we expected.

It made me think of the late Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Chili-Orange Oil that I used to make from time to time. It called for “shockingly pungent dried red chili flakes.” I never really thought about “shockingly pungent dried red chili flakes,” assuming all pepper flakes were about the same. They’re not.

Tropp’s oil is hot and fragrant with orange, a condiment to drizzle on any food that could use some zing, but especially Asian dishes. It’s amazing on a cold noodle salad with peanut dressing but equally as good on a fluffy batch of scrambled eggs. Add some to olive oil to marinate steak or chicken pieces before grilling. Drizzle some over the top of Eggs Benedict.

You should use both the oil and the goop, Tropp’s word for the solids that will be at the bottom of the oil. A spoonful (start with a very scant spoonful) stirred into cold or hot noodles adds amazing flavor. Add a bit to deviled egg filling, egg salad, potato salad or meatloaf ingredients, or add to ground meat to make Asian meatballs.

You want this to be flavorful, so in addition to buying fresh dried pepper flakes, err on the generous side with the garlic and orange. Oranges vary greatly in size. Choose ones with unblemished skins and make sure they’re organic, because you’ll be using only the most outside layer of the skin.

Use the most plump cloves of garlic from the outside tier of the head. If they’re all gone, use enough of the smaller cloves to approximate the amount that would have been in the bigger ones. When you smash the cloves, if you see any bit of green, pry it out before using in the recipe. If it diminishes the amount of garlic substantially, add another clove.

Note: This stuff will stain. If you splash some on your clothing, say with spatter from a slippery oil-dressed noodle, pretreat and wash. Or better yet, just wear very dark, patterned clothing.

Chili Orange Oil

Adapted from Barbara Tropp’s “China Moon.”

  • 4 medium organic oranges (tennis ball size)
  • 1/2 cup shockingly pungent dried red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black beans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 2 cups corn or peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup dark sesame oil

Wash the oranges in warm water and a little detergent, giving them a bit of a scrub. Rinse very well and dry them.

Grate the zest, being careful not to get any of the white pith. Give it a quick chop with a knife in case there are any long shreds.

Put the zest and the remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan (not aluminum.)

Heat over medium-low until it reaches about 230 degrees, stirring occasionally. Let it cook at a brisk simmer for 15 minutes. You want a steady, gently low bubble, not a rolling boil. Remove from heat and let stand until cool.

Pour into a glass jar that can be sealed airtight. Make sure to scrape in all the goop or solids.

If you want to give this as gifts, you could pour the oil into three or four half-pint jars. Evenly distribute the goop at the bottom between the jars.

Tightly cap and store at room temperature.

Kim Davaz of Eugene writes the Eating In column for The Register-Guard.