Welcome to Chow with Me, where Chowhound’s executive editor Hana Asbrink shares all of the irresistible things she’s cooking, eating, reading, buying, and more. Today: Fly By Jing’s Sichuan Chili Crisp.
I’m a condiment gal. Open my fridge and you’ll see the entire upper shelf and at least two of the inner fridge door shelves filled to the max with all sorts of sauces and seasonings to help take a dish from good to great. There’s the homemade lingonberry jam made with love by my mother-in-law, the savory Korean ssamjang my mother includes in all of her care packages, the half-spent tubes of tomato paste waiting for their next Bolognese appearance. Guaranteed that some of these jars are of questionable provenance and should probably be tossed, but I live for the variety, the culinary equivalent of a punctuation mark to my food.
Hot sauces, especially, enjoy a good perch inside my fridge. From lean-on-me Cholula to Trader Joe’s Zhoug, there’s space for every one, every whim. The one I’m turning to most these days? Without a doubt, Fly By Jing‘s Sichuan Chili Crisp.
What is chili crisp? In short, it’s a chili oil packed with all sorts of goodies (the “crisp”) that make it a highly addictive condiment. In Fly by Jing’s case, you’ll find fermented black beans, garlic, shallots, ginger, seaweed, and of course, Sichuan peppercorns, among other spices and oils. This spicy, savory, slightly numbing sauce plays really well with eggs, noodles, proteins, plain white rice, even pizza.
It’s no surprise I love this sauce so much. My husband and I have stocked up on the OG, Lao Gan Ma’s Spicy Chili Crisp, for years. The glass jar with the signature red label and portrait of the slightly intimidating Chinese lady (Tao Huabi, to be exact) has been a mainstay of our mapo tofu rituals. It wasn’t until I tried Fly By Jing’s version, though, that I thought to go beyond traditional uses.
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Jenny Gao, the founder of Fly By Jing, sought to create an all-natural chili crisp free of MSG and artificial preservatives after spending years working and cooking in her native Chengdu. The result is an artisanal product showcasing Sichuan’s prized tribute peppers in a fragrant, umami-rich condiment that Jenny is busy keeping stocked on her online shelves. “We’ve sold more than 10,000 bottles since launching just a few months ago,” shares Jenny, who got the company off the ground via Kickstarter. Customers are really going for it, enjoying the chili crisp in expected ways like on eggs, but also on avocado toast, ice cream (!), and even cocktails.
I picked up my jar at a neat traveling pop-up grocery store (aptly named Pop Up Grocer) for about $15 not long ago here in New York, and immediately heaped it upon *all* the crisp-edged fried eggs (yup, those would be my eggs up above).
For the record, my husband and also put Fly By Jing’s chili crisp to the test for our beloved mapo tofu and, unsurprisingly, we polished off the whole lot. It obviously brought the heat and mild numbing sensation we’re used to, but there was also an earthy richness that rounded out all the spice.
We’re more than halfway through with our first jar and just grateful we have a back-up waiting in the wings. My mind’s already racing with all the things I want to experiment with: chili crisp in a melty grilled cheese, heaped atop freshly buttered toast or a warm biscuit, mixed into a vinaigrette for a cold noodle salad, swirled into a low and slow ragu… (I may need to order more.)
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