Taste Testing Sichuan Chili Oil

Method and results from taste testing two Sichuan chili oil batches, one with additional cloves, garlic, and shallot.

I finally got around to taste testing the two chili oil batches I made in January.

Inspired by the homebrewing experiments of Brülosophy, I opted for a “triangle test”. In this method, the subject is presented with three samples: two are the same and one is different. The subject must then determine which is the different sample. The benefit of this test method is that it reduces the probability of the subject guessing the correct sample at random from 50% (for an A vs B test) to 33%.

Of course my group size (1) was too small to reach any kind of confidence, but I still wanted to reduce the likelihood that I accidentally guess the different sample.

My two chili oils both used a recipe from The Woks of Life. One batch did not include any of the optional ingredients, so only oil, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns, Sichuan chili flakes, and salt. The other batch also included cloves, garlic, and shallots.

For my test I had two plates with 3 spoons on each. My wife selected the sample for each spoon in another room and brought the two plates to me. On the first plate, each spoon had a sample of only chili oil. On the second plate, each spoon had a bit of jasmine rice and a sample of chili oil.

I correctly selected the odd chili oil on both plates. And I correctly guessed that the odd chili oil was the one with the shallots, garlic, and cloves. I do not have a sophisticated palate, but the flavor tasted a little more “rounded.”

The difference was not that big by any means, and certainly not one I think I’d notice in the normal course of using the chili oil. In future batches, I’ll probably add the extra ingredients if I have them on hand, but I won’t be disappointed if I don’t have them.