That Kung-pao Chicken may be saving your life. Some great news for heat-seekers: a new study released last week shows that eating spicy food could help you to live longer.
Researchers found that eating spicy food, mainly cooked or served with chili peppers, six to seven times a week reduces the risk of death by a whopping 14 percent. Consuming hot food even once or twice a week reduces overall risk of death by about 10 percent. Red pepper was also found to reduce the likelihood of overweight and obesity.
Fresh and dried chili pepper, chili sauce, and chili oils that are prevalent in Chinese cooking and are what give it its fire — and its longevity-giving capsaicin. We've gathered some hot recipes that showcase these fountain-of-youth peppers to bring years to your life. You're welcome.
Sichuan Spiced Chili Oil from Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho
Chili oil is a versatile tool in your cooking repertoire that can be used in both hot and cold dishes. It is a quick and easy way to kick up the spice level in any dish. Although chili oils are available at your local grocery, a homemade version will be hotter and, according to chef Kian Lam Kho, will have a far superior flavor.
- 1/2 cup Sichuan peppercorns
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- 1 (1-inch-long) piece of fresh ginger
- 2 scallions
- 2 tablespoons whole cloves
- 1 (1-inch) square of cassia bark
- 4 whole star anise
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 2 cups dried whole red chilieschilies
- ¹⁄4 cup crushed Chinese red chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons Chinese red chili powder
- Soak the Sichuan peppercorns in the oil for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil and peppercorns over low heat to about 250°F. Add the ginger, scallions, cloves, cassia bark, star anise, black cardamom, and dried whole red chilieschilies. Simmer in the oil for about 20 minutes.
- Put the red chili flakes and powder in a heat-proof 3-quart bowl. Strain the oil through a wire-mesh strainer into the bowl. Discard the strained spices. Let the oil steep overnight before using.
- Both the oil and the chili flakes can be used in recipes. Store in a covered glass jar for up to a year.
Sichuanese Numbing-and-Hot Beef from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop
- 3/4 lb (325g) stewing beef or beef shin, boneless and in one piece
- 2 oz (50g) ginger, unpeeled, cut into thick slices
- 2 spring onions, crushed slightly
- 2 star anise
- 1 piece of cassia bark, or 1/3 of a cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
- 2 cloves
- 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
- 2 tsp salt
For the sauce
- 1/8 tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper
- 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 3–5 tbsp chili oil, with its sediment, to taste
- 1/4 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
- Handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp finely sliced spring onion greens
- 1 celery stick, de-stringed and finely chopped
- Good handful of Fried Peanuts (see page 325), roughly chopped or crushed with a mortar and pestle
- Rinse the beef very thoroughly in cold and then hot water to remove any bloodiness (under the tap will do). Then place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim the liquid. Then add the ginger, spring onions, spices, shaoxing wine and salt, and return to a boil. Cover and cook over a very low flame for about two hours.
- When the beef is cooked, set it aside to cool, reserving 1/3 cup (75ml) of the cooking liquid. (The beef and liquid can be kept in the fridge for a few days. The leftover liquid can be frozen and re-used on another occasion to give a spiced flavor to firm tofu, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, chicken wings, beef, or offal of your choice.)
- Gently toast the sesame seeds, if using, in a dry wok or frying pan for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and starting to turn golden, then tip into a dish.
- When you wish to serve the beef, cut it into fairly thin slices and place in a serving dish. if the reserved beef cooking liquor has become jellied, let it stand at room temperature or gently warm it through until it is liquid once more, then allow to cool a little.
- Combine all the sauce ingredients with the beef cooking liquor in a small bowl, mix well and pour over the beef. Scatter over the other ingredients and serve. Give everything a good mix and invite your guests to help themselves.
Sichuanese "Send-the-rice-down" chopped celery with ground beef from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop
- 11 oz (300g) celery
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 4 oz (100g) ground beef
- 11/2 tbsp Sichuan chili bean paste
- 11/2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
- Light soy sauce, to taste
- 1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar (optional)
- De-string the celery sticks and cut them lengthways into 3/8 in (1cm) strips. Finely chop the strips. bring some water to a boil and blanch the celery for about 30 seconds to "break its rawness." Drain well.
- Heat the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. add the ground meat and stir-fry until it is cooked and fragrant, pressing it with the back of your wok scoop or ladle to separate the strands. Then add the chili bean paste and continue to stir until you can smell it and the oil has reddened. add the ginger and stir-fry for a few moments more to release its fragrance, then add all the celery.
- Continue to stir-fry until the celery is piping hot, seasoning with a little soy sauce, if you wish. Finally, stir in the vinegar and serve.
Sichuanese spiced cucumber salad
- 1 cucumber (about 11 oz/300g)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 4–5 dried chilies, snipped in half, seeds discarded as far as possible
- 1/2–1 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the pulp and seeds with a teaspoon (I usually eat them as I go along). Then cut each half into about three sections and slice each section into thin strips. Place the pieces in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Drain the cucumber and shake dry.
- Heat a wok over a high flame. Pour in the cooking oil, swirl it quickly around, then add the chilies and Sichuan pepper. Stir-fry the spices until the chilies are darkening but not burned, then add the cucumber. Stir-fry very briefly to heat the surface of the cucumber and drive in the flavors of the oil. Off the heat, stir in the sesame oil and turn on to a serving dish.
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