Slice the fresh chili peppers thinly. Place into a mortar and pestle along with 2 teaspoons salt. Grind and mix thoroughly with the pestle—you don't need to form a paste, just break down the peppers slightly. This is my shortcut for salt-preserved chilies. I'm not really sure if it actually approximates salt-preserved chilies, but it does add really great spice and texture! Set aside and prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Mince the garlic. I used a garlic press; a food processor also works well. Then again, nothing wrong with old-fashioned elbow grease!
Heat ½ cup of your oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic. Stir and let fry gently until the garlic turns golden yellow in color. The goal is to cook off the moisture and allow the garlic to soak up the oil—like a confit. It should NOT become crisp or fry intensely at all. You may need to reduce the heat to medium-low / low.
When the garlic is ready (about 30 minutes later, give or take 10 minutes depending on how cautious you're being), add the salted chilies. Stir and let fry gently for another 5-10 minutes, again watching closely so as not to burn the oil and spices.
Next, add the last ¾ cups of oil to the saucepan to heat through. Too much oil early on in the process makes it more difficult to evenly fry the garlic and chilies, which is why we started with only 1/2 cup.
Now add your chili flakes and sugar. Stir to combine. Finish off with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and you've got a delicious jar of homemade chiu chow oil! (Feel free to re-season with up to a teaspoon of additional salt if needed. You may want to wait until it's cooled first to get a more accurate read on the flavor.)
Transfer to a clean jar. In our experience, the sauce stores well at the top/back of the refrigerator (the coldest part) for a good 2-3 months. And, of course, always dip into it with a clean spoon/chopsticks to preserve it. But we're betting it doesn't last past the 2-week mark!
Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce. Nutrition info is for 1 tablespoon.