Image of chilli crisp condiment and the ingredients.
Food and Drink

Make this customisable recipe for crispy chilli oil with expert tips from Rosa’s Thai Café

Crispy chilli oil is foodie TikTok’s latest obsession. If you’ve been swiping and salivating over this trending condiment, you’re in luck. Chef Saiphin Moore shares her traditional version still served in her restaurants, Rosa’s Thai Café and Lao Café.

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If you’re tuned into food media, the chances are you’ve recently been introduced to the culinary sensation that is crispy chilli oil or chilli crisp as some call it.

It’s so popular that Lao Gan Ma – China’s most famous brand of crispy chilli oil established in 1996 – is trending on Google search, editors are compiling lists of the best ones to try, and if you type “crispy chilli oil” into TikTok’s search bar you’ll get prompts for searches on how to make it, eat it with noodles, or use it in cooking. For each term there are hundreds of videos detailing the wonders of this food find.

What’s so special about crispy chilli oil?, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a mixture of crunchy, flavourful ingredients such as chillies, beans and garlic. These are fried and then steeped in neutral oil and you can eat it with literally anything.

For those in the know, like Saiphin Moore, founder of Rosa’s Thai Café and Lao Café, the marvels of crispy chilli oil are nothing new. The chef serves her own version of the condiment in her restaurants and her love for it goes back many years. She says: “When I lived in Hong Kong, I was inspired to make my own by one of the late-night noodle shops that I used to visit. It took a bit of trial and error but I got there in the end.”

As for her favourite way to eat it, Saiphin says: “I like to keep it simple – steamed rice with a crispy Thai fried egg is my favourite – but really, I use it on everything for a bit of extra heat.”

We’re sold. So, we asked Saiphin to share her recipe.

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Ingredients to make crispy chilli oil

  • 5tbsp chilli flakes
  • 2tbsp chopped garlic
  • 3tsp vegetable oil or another neutral oil such as grapeseed or sunflower oil – which have no flavour and therefore won’t alter the taste
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2tsp chopped red onion (optional)
  • 2tsp dried shrimp (optional)

How to make crispy chilli oil

  1. Heat your oil and add the chopped garlic. Cook for 30 seconds on medium heat until it’s golden brown.
  2. Add your remaining ingredients to the pan and cook for about five to eight minutes until the mix has thickened.
  3. Watch the oil closely to make sure the chillies don’t burn. They should deepen in colour but make sure they don’t turn brown as this means they’re burnt and will give your chilli oil a bitter flavour.
  4. Set the pan aside to cool to room temperature before serving.
  5. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge and consume it within four weeks.

How to eat crispy chilli oil

Crispy chilli oil is a do-it-all condiment. It has such a strong concentration of flavour and heat, you can use as much or as little of it as you want. 

Try frying eggs in it, eating it with rice, drizzling it over soups, or use it as a dipping sauce. The possibilities really are endless.

Saiphin’s expert tips for making crispy chilli oil

  • There are lots of ways to add extra flavours, so customise your own oil by adding other ingredients – peanuts, fried shallots and black beans are popular options.
  • You don’t need to add dried shrimp to your version. If you’re a vegetarian then soy sauce is more than enough to give a great flavour. 
  • Using fresh chillies will give your oil a bitter taste so always go with dried chillies.
  • It can be a messy recipe, so double or triple up the ingredients to ensure you always have some on hand without having to go through the prep.
  • Saiphin Moore, founder of Rosa's Thai Café and Lao Café

    Image of chef, Saiphin Moore standing in front of green curtains and a fern plant
    Saiphin Moore is an author and the founder of restaurants, Rosa's Thai Café and Lao Café

    Saiphin grew up in Khao Kho, northern Thailand, and opened her first noodle shop aged just 17. In 2006, after 18 years living in Hong Kong, Saiphin moved to London with her husband Alex, and started a market stall on Brick Lane. They found their first permanent site in 2008, which would become the first Rosa’s Thai Cafe. There are now 24 Rosas in London, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester, offering Saiphin’s signature dishes, from butternut curry to drunken noodles.

Images: courtesy of Rosa’s Thai Café