Imagine the salty, crackly pleasure of potato chips with a just-right amount of tingling chile heat. That’s what this savory, crunchy, oily, spiced-but-not-too-spicy condiment is like. It’s great on just about everything.
If you have cooking gloves, wear them while preparing the chiles. Discard any stems. For a very spicy sauce, crush the whole chiles into tiny flakes with your fingers. For less spice, crack each in half and shake out the seeds before crushing. The more seeds you keep, the hotter the sauce. Reserve the crushed chiles.
Using the flat side of a knife’s blade, crush the soybeans into tiny bits and transfer them, along with the flaky soybean skins, to a medium heatproof bowl. Repeat the process with the peppercorns to achieve coarsely ground pepper with cracked husks. Add to the bowl, along with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl.
Combine the oil, onion, remaining ¼ teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Stir well, then turn the heat to medium. When the oil begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes evenly dark golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Add the chile flakes and sizzle for 10 seconds, then immediately and carefully pour over the sieve into the bowl. Gently shake the sieve to drip all the oil into the bowl, then spread the onion and chile in a single layer on a paper towel. Let stand until completely cool and crisp, then stir into the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. Use immediately or transfer to a jar.
Peanut Chili Crisp: Substitute roasted salted peanuts for the soybeans and chop them.
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