Crack in a Jar

“The poulterers’ shops were still half open, and the fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentleman, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced broad-girthed Spanish onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered lanes; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner.”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp – I have almost finished off my first jar.

The other day we had a little bike ride to Four Bullets, a local brewery. It was a good time – shooting the bull and nerding out and enjoying a good beer.

On of my friends asked me if I had heard of Spicy Chili Crisp. I had not and they said that it was fantastic and everybody was talking about it. They sent me a photo on their phone and said, “You have to get this brand, no others.” They said that they had found a jar at a local Asian market – but there was only one jar left.

So I was tooling around the city and stopped in at the Plano location of the Super H Mart. This was the place, a few years ago, that I successfully found some Banana Ketchup. I figured that if any place had it – that would be the place.

After looked around a bit (the store is vast) I found a dozen jars on a shelf – along with a number of other Lao Gan Ma products. All had the same serious owner glaring out from the label:

Most people would recognize a jar of Lao Gan Ma by the stern portrait of Tao Huabi, 74, the legendary godmother and founder of the brand. In the early 1990s, Tao ran a humble food stall in Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province. Her crispy chili oil became a crowd favorite and turned into a billion-dollar business. – CBS news

So I bought a jar along with a few favorite Asian delicacies (all non-carb) and went home. I eagerly drove home and scrambled up a couple eggs. I had been told that it was good on everything – even ice cream – but that eggs were a popular vessel for the condiment.

It was delicious. More than delicious, addictive. It is crack in a jar.

It is spicy, of course, but not too spicy… it is just right. I can take more than a bit of heat – but I have ruined a few meals with too-aggressive application of the chili oil they serve in the little containers – but this does not have the nuclear late after-heat of that stuff. It is also very complex – there is a lot going on in that jar.

What is really odd is the texture. It contains chunks (maybe pea sized) of what I guess is fried peppers, giving it a crunch. I guess that’s why they call it spicy chili crisp. Since buying it, I eat that shit on everything – though I can’t eat ice cream.

I polished off the first jar in about a week. Luckily, I discovered the Vietnamese market near my house has the stuff, though in a smaller jar. I did buy some more and even tried an alternate brand as a test.

It was good too, but not as addictive as the Lao Gan Ma. I think Tao Huabi is glaring at me even more because I tried a competitor.