Crunchy mala-spiced popcorn

Whenever I go running, I always come up with really fun food ideas. I don’t know why, maybe it is because my body is craving certain kinds of foods while I am exercising, or the adrenaline is going to my head and it helps me think better or more creatively, but this recipe, regardless of how I came up with it, was a running-induced food baby. The idea of crunchy, spicy popcorn just sounded super delicious, and like something I should have been doing since I was a kid. I used mala spice, which is this numbing Chinese spice blend that almost gives you like a hug, just because it is comforting, fragrant, and gives the popcorn a really fun and almost interacting aspect to it. I also added in some fried garlic and shallot bits, just because you typically would find that in a lot of crunchy Chinese chili oils anyways, and that would be a fun homage to it. I recommend eating this the next time you have a movie night, and preferably with gloves or utensils so that you don’t get that spicy oil into your eyes by accident. Trust me, been there, and not fun.

For the chili oil:
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup chili flakes
1g ground star anise
1g ground ginger
2 teaspoons sichuan peppercorns, ground finely
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Heat up the canola or vegetable oil with the spices and allow the spices to fry off on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the chili flakes have gone crispy. The oil may bubble slightly during this process. Stir in the sesame oil, off heat, and allow it to cool down before using. Store any unused oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

For the popcorn:
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 teaspoon chili oil
3 tablespoons crispy shallots
3 tablespoons crispy garlic
3 1/2 tablespoons chili oil

Toss the popcorn kernels in the teaspoon of chili oil first. Place into the largest pot you own, and cover. Heat on low heat and allow the popcorn to puff, shaking it on occasion to allow the unpopped kernels to touch the heated surfaces better. Once you no longer hear popping, take the pot off heat and allow the popcorn to cool down slightly. Transfer into a large bag(at least twice at large as the popcorn you have), and then pour in the remaining chili oil, and the shallots and garlic. Shake up the bag until everything is evenly distributed and coated.

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