In the first of our Ingredient Feature series, we want to shout about the greatest condiment known to man. It’s no secret, but it’s a crying shame how few of you have tried it. Today we’re talking about Lao Gan Ma’s Crispy Chilli in Oil.
Where does it come from?
Lao Gan Ma or Old Godmother is a brand of sauces made in China, founded by Tao Huabi. Born into extreme poverty in Guizhou province, Tao eventually set up a small noodle shop in the early 90s where she became famous for her chilli sauce with fermented soybeans. At the age of 49, she took the plunge and set up a sauce factory. Since then she has become a completely self-made billionaire and her range of sauces is the biggest in China by far and sold all across the world. This is a sauces to success story that we’re looking to emulate BIG time.
What’s in it?
LGM has a range of amazing sauces and oils but our favourite is the Crispy Chilli in Oil. It’s made up of crispy onions and garlic, soybeans, Guizhou chilli, Sichuan pepper and the all-important MSG. It’s somewhere between a chilli oil and a crunchy salsa, with all sorts of different textures and super-savoury flavours throughout.
Why do we (and everybody else) love it?
You really have to try it to believe it. It has a savoury, salty, numbing quality to it that is found almost nowhere else. Its moreish nature has earned it the loving nickname “crack” in my house. It’s more complex than a chilli oil, better than a hot sauce and infinitely versatile. It makes a brilliant addition to so many dishes and cuisines from ramen, to avo and poached eggs, to peanut butter on toast. You’ll often catch me eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon. Is it healthy? Probably not. Is it too delicious to care? 100%.
Where do I get it?
You can find it in most Asian supermarkets, on Amazon, or on SousChef.com. It’s generally cheapest in-store, and a trip to the Asian supermarket is never a waste of time. There are loads of brilliant ingredients you can pick up while you’re there like miso, dumplings, seasonings and kimchi.
Can I make it myself?
I tried this during a particularly bleak Crack shortage. All of my local shops were sold out and it was a tough couple of months. While the condiment I made was pretty delicious, it wasn’t even close to Lao Gan Ma. The variety of chilli, the MSG and the decades of expertise of the 4000+ people that work for the Old Godmother simply cannot be replicated. If you fancy a shot at it, I used this recipe:
Do you use it in any of your recipes?
While I cook with it all the time, we have only included it in one recipe so far. It really takes our Dan Dan Noodles to the next level. We want the majority of our recipes to be super accessible so we try to keep the specialist ingredients to a minimum. Having said that, it would be a delicious addition to our Jerk Quesadillas and Epic Curry Brunch. Go wild with it.