Chicken Cilantro Wontons with Red Chili Oil

Chicken Cilantro Wontons with Red Chili Oil

This recipe is Oaktown Spice Shop’s take on a classic Szechuan Style dish “Hong You Chao Shou” (红油抄手), or wontons dressed in a red chili oil sauce. Its name translates directly to “folded arms in chili oil,” which refers to the signature fold of the wontons and their savory chili oil sauce.

We paired the chili oil with chicken cilantro wontons. For a vegetarian or vegan option, you can try crumbled stir-fried tofu in lieu of ground chicken.

This traditional street food dates back hundreds of years and for many, it is comfort food at its finest. The deep infused smoky flavors of red chili oil combined with the saltiness of the soy sauce and wontons is a match made in heaven -- a perfect blend of savory and spicy. Imagine walking down the streets of Chengdu in the dead of winter and being greeted with a steaming bowl of chili oil wontons. “Hong You Chao Shou” is a perfect dish to warm your stomach and your spirits! Enjoy!

Chicken Cilantro Wontons in Chili Oil

Makes 30-40 wontons

Sichuan-Style Red Chili Oil:

1 cup vegetable, grapeseed, or peanut oil
2 black cardamom pods
Fresh ginger root (about a 1 inch piece), peeled and cut into large slices
1 ½ tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns
15-20 dried whole Tien Tsin chiles (approximately 1 oz)
1 tsp Saigon cinnamon chips
2 slices of dried sliced licorice root
2 whole star anise pods
6-12 large cloves garlic
1 bunch of scallions (white parts only; save green parts for garnish)
3 tablespoons ground red chili powder, such as Kashmiri red pepper powder**
3 tablespoons cup red chili flakes, such as Kimchi chile flakes**
½ cup dried roasted garlic (optional)

Chicken-Cilantro Wontons:

1 lb ground chicken
3 dashes ground white peppercorns (about 1/8 tsp)
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing rice wine)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup green onions, chopped
homemade or store-bought wonton wrappers (see note)

Chili Oil Sauce:

4 tablespoons chili oil (see above)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
sliced scallion greens (for garnish)


Make the chili oil: Put the vegetable oil, black cardamom, ginger, Szechuan peppercorns, dried whole Tien Tsin chiles, cinnamon, licorice root, anise, garlic, and the whites from the scallion stalks into a saucepan. Heat this mixture over medium high heat until the oil begins to bubble. Turn the heat to medium or medium low, and slow simmer the oil for 20 to 30 minutes to release the flavors. Be careful not to burn the ingredients. The oil is done when garlic, ginger, chiles and peppercorns begin to brown and oil is fragrant. If they have turned black, the oil has burned and you'll need to start over. Note that by this point the chili oil will not yet be a red color.

In a heat safe bowl, mix the 3 tablespoons of finely ground red chile powder and 3 tablespoons of chile flakes**. Spoon one tablespoon of hot oil over the powder and flakes. You'll know the oil is hot enough if the oil bubbles on contact with the chiles. 

Place a metal strainer with a heat-safe handle over the bowl. While the oil is still hot, strain it into the bowl, taking a break halfway through to stir the chile oil. Discard the black cardamom, ginger, peppercorns and other solids.

Stir the chile oil again and let cool. If you want garlic chili oil, you can also add ½ cup of dehydrated roasted garlic. After cooled, place the oil in airtight jars. The chili oil will keep for up to two months.

Make the wontons: Combine the filling ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of a wonton wrapper. Use water or egg white to coat the edge of the wrapper, making it sticky. Then fold the wrapper in a triangle. From there you can pleat like a potsticker, or fold over the corners in a shape of a tortellini. (There are some great YouTube videos for tips on wonton folding!) After folding, bring a pot with water to a boil and cook wontons on a rolling boil for approximately 5 minutes or until wontons float to the top of the pot.

Make the chili oil sauce: Mix the sauce ingredients well to combine. Then, when wontons are done, strain the wontons and place in a bowl. Pour the sauce generously over each bowl of wontons. Garnish with sliced green scallions and enjoy!

** This chile combination will produce a medium heat level. For a HOT chili oil use Kashmiri red pepper powder or Chinese Red pepper powder, and toast and grind ½ oz of Tien Tsin or other Chinese red chiles for the flakes. For a MILD chili oil use Hungarian sweet paprika and Aleppo chile flakes.

Note: Near Albany, you can get high quality wonton wrappers at Berkeley Bowl. Near Oakland, Yuen Hop Co in Chinatown has handmade wrappers.  If you don’t cook all the wontons at once, uncooked wontons can be frozen and saved for later use.

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