Recipe: Numbing Spicy Red Oil

By Margot Timboe

Recipe: Numbing Spicy Red Oil

Numbing Spicy Red Chili Oil is a staple at Mamahuhu - the perfect combination of spicy and mala (‘numbing’ 麻 and ‘hot’ 辣), and always made fresh in house. We use it to add electric, numbing heat to our Lazi Chicken and Tingly Spicy Chicken Sandwich, and makes a great addition to your home pantry for topping potstickers, rice, eggs, avocado toast, or anything else needs a little kick of heat. 

Our Numbing Spicy Red Oil features only 5 ingredients:

  1. Dried red chiles - dried red chiles make up the majority of the Numbing Spicy Red Oil, and are fried briefly to release their flavor into the hot oil. You can find dried red chiles at your local Asian or Latin supermarket. We use dried Arbol chiles in our house recipe, but feel free to use whatever dried red chiles you can find or whatever suits your preferred level of spice.
  2. Neutral oil - we use rice bran oil for its high smoke point and antioxidant properties, but any neutral oil such as canola oil, grape seed oil, or vegetable oil will work. At Mamahuhu, we avoid using strongly flavored oils such as olive oil or sesame oil, as they may muddle the flavors of the chiles. For a more
  3. Sichuan peppercorns - a little Sichuan peppercorn goes a long way in this recipe. Sichuan peppercorns have intensely floral and delicate citrusy notes, and give off a tingly numbing sensation that’s utterly addictive and very distinct. Sichuan peppercorns are not closely related to black peppercorns or other chiles, but are rather the berry of the prickly ash tree. We use red Sichuan peppercorns in our house recipe, but try the green variety for an earthier flavor.
  4. Fried garlic - pieces of fried garlic add crunch and flavor to the Numbing Spicy Red Oil. Asian supermarkets have many options - try to find one with small, crunchy pieces, where the garlic has been minced as opposed to sliced. You can also make your own fried garlic at home in the microwave! You can also add extra crunch to your Numbing Spicy Red Oil by adding a dash of sesame seeds or crushed peanuts. 
  5. Sugar - because everyone likes a little something sweet, and it perfectly balances out the spice.

Numbing Spicy Red Oil

Makes approx. 1.5 cups of chili oil


2 loosely packed cups dried red chiles

1.5 cups of neutral oil (like rice bran, canola, or vegetable oil)

1 TBSP red Sichuan peppercorns

2 TBSP fried garlic

1 TBSP + 1 TSP sugar


  1. Pour oil into a medium pot and place on the stove over medium heat. Heat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, checking temperature with a kitchen thermometer. While the oil is heating, prepare a spider or slotted spoon.
  2. Once the oil is hot, add the dried chilis and fry for 20-25 seconds or until they turn bright red. Remove immediately with the spider or slotted spoon and set aside. Be careful not to let them burn!
  3. Let the chiles cool slightly, then add them to a food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped.
  4. Add the chopped chiles to a heat-safe bowl with the Sichuan peppercorns, sugar, and fried garlic.
  5. Check the oil’s temperature and reheat to 350 if it has cooled down. Pour the spicy oil evenly over the ingredients in the bowl, sizzling the ingredients.
  6. Allow the oil to cool. Strain the oil off of the solids. Discard about half the solids and add the rest to a glass jar or pint-sized container for storage. Pour the flavored oil over the top of the solids. If you like a spicier and crunchier chili oil, you can keep all of the solids, or use them to make another batch!

Numbing Spicy Red Oil will last up to three months in the refrigerator (though we don’t think it’ll keep that long!)

Mamahuhu recommendation: Mix a spoonful of Numbing Spicy Red Oil into equal parts soy sauce and black vinegar for a potsticker dipping sauce with a kick!

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