Chilli oil is a pantry staple that’s as versatile as they come – drizzle it on dumplings or eggs, use it as a marinade, cook with it, add it to sauces, or eat it straight out of the jar (guilty). It’s easy to make yourself – this recipe from Rosheen Kaul of Melbourne’s Etta takes all of 45 minutes – but even easier? Leaving it to the experts and buying a ready-made jar.

Accountant and business analyst Ethan Yong has been searching for the best chilli oil since he was a kid on a self-appointed mission to try all the house-made mixes at different restaurants. He started making it himself during his uni days, and would cook up big batches for family and friends during last year’s lockdown.

After finally nailing the recipe (he made around 50 different batches during experimentation phase), he started selling Umamipapi himself through Instagram, first on his personal account. Then messages came pouring in from complete strangers who wanted to buy his chilli oil too.

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“There was one weekend in September where I had to make 100 jars of chilli oil – that took me Friday night, Saturday day and Sunday morning and afternoon – and I had work on Monday. That’s when I looked for a commercial kitchen,” Yong tells Broadsheet.

Now he and his small team make about 80 kilograms of chilli oil each weekend. It’s packed with heat thanks to three different types of chillies – Thai for spice, Chinese for aromatic flavour and Korean green chillies for colour – but also promises flavour outside of the burning kick.

“A good chilli oil isn’t just focused on the spice. I love chilli and I love spice, but I know not everyone does,” he says. “When I was trying to develop the recipe, a lot of thought went into making something that not only had spice but had really good textures, aromatics and flavour.”

Each jar is infused with star anise and cinnamon for aroma, with crunchy bits of garlic, onion and shallots for texture, vegan chicken-stock powder and rock sugar for flavour, and a touch of cumin that “gives it a slight, almost curry-like undertone that’s not too prominent”, according to Yong.

His favourite way of using it is in a sandwich, or else mixed with Kewpie mayonnaise in a burger. Customers have found creative uses for it, too – someone tried it with a scoop of ice-cream for a sweet-savoury-umami flavour combo, and another slathered it on peanut-butter toast and said it tasted like chilli satay.

The chilli oil comes in either original or extra spicy flavours and in two sizes; a large 225-gram jar and a jumbo 750 grams. Umamipapi also has a product called Roma, a passata of roma tomatoes Yong developed with friend Damian Pietropaolo that’s only available online.

The chilli oils are available at a number of retailers around Melbourne, including Calia, The Leaf Store, Mr West, and Andrew McConnell’s Meatsmith. It’s also part of Supernormal’s dumpling banquet on Providoor.

“I love Supernormal, I love their food. They emailed me and I couldn’t believe it.”

Umamipapi chilli oil starts at $15.50 for 225 grams and ships Australia-wide. Or find your nearest Victorian stockist here.

umamipapi.com.au
@itsumamipapi

Want more spice? Check out Broadsheet’s wrap of Australian-made chilli oils here.