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Crunch Drunk Love

Chili crisp is my latest food obsession. I am head over heels for this crunchy, spicy, goes-on-everything topping! You can drizzle it on every meal—at breakfast it makes eggs sing, it levels up avocado toast at lunch, it turns any steamed veg or grilled meat into a bomb-ass dinner, and of course it makes rice a thousand times more delicious.

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I first picked up the old-school Lao Gan Ma Chili Sauce (lao gan ma is Chinese for “old godmother”) from my local Chinese market. It’s got various chilis, black beans, and bits of crunchy fried onions in oil—I don’t know how they keep those onions crispy, but it is a flavor sensation. Lucky for me, there are approximately one million modern versions, and I’ve made it my mission to try them all. Based on extensive testing and completely subjective assessment, here are a few of my chili crisp faves.


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Kari Kari Garlic Chili Crisp ($14.99 for 6 oz., eatkarikari.com): Created by a Seattle wife-and-husband team, this chili crisp is superior to them all. It’s got lots of crunchy garlic bits, rich mushroom flavor, and is spicy enough to wake your mouth up. Letter Grade: A+++

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photo courtesy of eatkarikari.com

Mr Bing Chili Crisp ($11.99 for 7 oz., mr-bing.com): This one’s got garlic—yum—and comes in both mild and spicy (though it’s not that hot). Both have great flavor and substantial garlic bits. Letter Grade: A

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photo courtesy of mr-bing.com

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S&B Umami Topping Crunchy Garlic with Chili Oil ($7.48 for 3.88 oz., worldmarket.com): Nutty sesame plus fried garlic and onion give this Japanese oil its flavor, plus it has a high crunch-to-oil ratio. Like Lao Gan Ma it contains MSG—that doesn’t bother me, but I know some are sensitive to it. Letter Grade: B+

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photo courtesy of worldmarket.com

Momoya Chili Oil with Fried Garlic ($6.50 for 3.88 oz., yummybazaar.com): Another Japanese version, this one is very crunchy, with mouthwatering hints of sesame and red pepper. Contains MSG. Letter Grade: B

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photo courtesy of yummybazaar.com

Fly by Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp ($17 for 6 oz., flybyjing.com): Jing Gao is the woman behind the wonderful black bean flavor and strong spicy kick of this crisp. It's a very popular choice, but loses some points for being less chunky and more oily than the others. Letter grade: B-

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photo courtesy of flybyjing.com

–Laurie henzel  

 

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