Friday Food 128 – Lao Gan Ma Chilli Sauce
Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we are off to meet a saucy godmother.
Chinese has a zillion chilli pastes or sauces. It seems every village (or every home) has its own recipe. I have about 20 in my fridge or larder.
By far the most popular is the brand from Guizhou province known as Lao Gan Ma (老干妈).
Back in 1989, an illiterate noodle vendor in Guizhou by the name of Tao Huabi (陶华碧) started using her home-made chilli sauce to accompany her rice noodles. This proved very popular and soon customers were asking for pots of the sauce to take home. The canny Mme Tao started giving free pots to passing truck drivers from out of town who dropped into her noodle shack. Soon the sauce was known far and wide.
By 1996, she was so busy making the sauce that she gave up the noodles and went into full time production. According to the company’s website (in Chinglish), today it employs around 1,000 people who produce 430,000 jars a day. The sauce is available in almost every store in China and is exported to over 30 countries including United States, Australia,Canada,New Zealand, etc. Annual output value is around 50 million USD. The company is now one of the few in China entitled to display the worrying SS notice denoting an authorised “China Top Brand”
The sauce now comes in a number of varieties. The original sauce is a mix of chilli, vegetable oil, peanuts, sesame, and salt.
Additional varieties include chilli sauce with chicken, chilli sauce with pork, chilli sauce with beef, chilli sauce with fermented black beans etc.
Here is the chicken version consisting of chicken, chilli、vegetable oil、MSG、 salt、sugar、sesame oil、and Sichuan peppercorns.
The potent sauces are used as an ingredient in cooked dishes as well as in dips. The sauce is spicily hot, but not overwhelmingly so. The other ingredients combine with the chilli to produce a rich complex flavour which is loved by millions.