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Chinese table spice paste?


faine
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I've been here in China for about six weeks now, and almost every restaurant in Beijing, Xi'an, and Xinjiang has a bowl or a jar full of this oily, crunchy spice paste here at table. It's a deep red color, and has a smoky, slightly gritty flavor. It seems to be especially popular in the Islamic lamian joints. In any case, I adore it, but I've never seen it anywhere at the often very hardcore Chinese restaurants I frequent back home in California. I suspect it's more of a Northern thing then a Southern thing, since I didn't see it anywhere in Hong Kong. In any case, what is this stuff and where can I buy it in the Bay Area?

Thanks!

Edited by faine (log)
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I've been here in China for about six weeks now, and almost every restaurant in Beijing, Xi'an, and Xinjiang has a bowl or a jar full of this oily, crunchy spice paste here at table. It's a deep red color, and has a smoky, slightly gritty flavor. It seems to be especially popular in the Islamic lamian joints.  In any case, I adore it, but I've never seen it anywhere at the often very hardcore Chinese restaurants I frequent back home in California. I suspect it's more of a Northern thing then a Southern thing, since I didn't see it anywhere in Hong Kong. In any case, what is this stuff and where can I buy it in the Bay Area?

Thanks!

I can't help with the identification, but the next time you see it ask the waiter/ress if they would kindly write (print) out the Chinese characters for it. If they are accepting of this, maybe they would show you the jar?? Also -- do you have a camera with you? That might help those who are expert in spicy pastes.

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I would be very surprised if it came from a jar. Every restaurant in China serves such a dipping sauce (as do many families), albeit with variations. They are generally homemade.

Good point. I wonder if one can bring home a sample and have it analyzed.

OR -- find a Muslim Lamian place here (if one can) and see what they have.

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Umm....

The fact that it is so ubiquitous means that, yes, you can find it anywhere. This means in the US or China, in jars, sugar bowls, plastic bags and even in little ketchup packs. If you're still in China, simply go to ANY convenience store, find the condiment section and look for something that looks spicy and scoopable. I like a brand called 老干妈, but they have many different flavors (black bean is pretty good :biggrin: ). You could also just ask for 辣椒酱, but that could get you any number of similar things.

The fun part is traveling to other parts of China and seeing how that paste(?) changes from place to place. I'm in Guilin and many places here use a fresh chilies and soy/oyster sauce kind of thing. We've also got the dried variety as well, but its not nearly as hot, and is usually only found in noodle and dumpling places.

Good luck!

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Btw, 老干妈is in a glass jar, with a red lid and has b/w photo of a rather stern looking woman wearing some kind of smock on the cover. She is, presumably, 老干妈 (old concerned mother). Could also be "Old Dry Mother" but that would be too funny.

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Old Dry Mother...how awesome. I bet I can find that.

In the Beijing area, the spice paste hasn't varied too much, other then level of soupiness/dryness. I have my camera and have a few photos of the stuff I'll post when I return (in a couple days!)

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LuckysticksPRC is referring to this stuff. I have a jar in my fridge, but in 11 years of living in China I've never beeen served it as a dip in a restaurant. All the restaurants I've been to make their own dipping sauces, as does my mother-in-law.

laoganmanc7.jpg

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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LuckysticksPRC is referring to this stuff. I have a jar in my fridge, but in 11years of living in China I've never beeen served it as a dip in a restaurant. All the restaurants I've been to make their own dipping sauces.

200541734147761.jpg

I can't recall seeing it in stores here, but maybe I just haven't been looking enough. What's the English pronunciation of 老干妈?

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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... She is, presumably, 老干妈 (old concerned mother). Could also be "Old Dry Mother" but that would be too funny.

In Chinese, the term "干妈" (Gan Ma in Mandarin) has a meaning that is similar to "Godmother" in Christian-based worlds. Someone who is not your mother but will look after you as if she is.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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In Cantonese wonton noodle shops, the hot spicy paste that they put on the table is usually a mix of deep-fried garlic, chili pepper flakes, fermented black beans, tons of MSG and plenty of oil.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Sorry, didn't mean to imply they serve 老干妈 in restaurants, but I also don't believe most restaurants (at least little 大排挡 in Guilin) make their own. If you go to any of the larger markets, they sell the dry variety in huge quantities. I think a lot of shops take this shortcut, but I could be wrong.

Also, when I said dipping sauce, I should have clarified that it would be wise to first add some vinegar, a little soy sauce and maybe some fermented tofu (see http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=46375&st=60) first. Of course you can just dump the dry stuff right to anything soupy, and if you like spiciness, really dump it in. Its not so hot on its own, and tends to be only the oil that burns your throat. Definitely not hot like a habanero, scotch bonnet, etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...
In Cantonese wonton noodle shops, the hot spicy paste that they put on the table is usually a mix of deep-fried garlic, chili pepper flakes, fermented black beans, tons of MSG and plenty of oil.

Ah Leung (or anyone :biggrin: )....any guidance how to put this together (proportions, melding time, storage, etc.) ? Also, would it be worthwhile to do this if MSG isn't used?

(don't mean to take this thread too far off topic...can start new one if appropriate!)

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In Cantonese wonton noodle shops, the hot spicy paste that they put on the table is usually a mix of deep-fried garlic, chili pepper flakes, fermented black beans, tons of MSG and plenty of oil.

Ah Leung (or anyone :biggrin: )....any guidance how to put this together (proportions, melding time, storage, etc.) ? Also, would it be worthwhile to do this if MSG isn't used?

Just the basics: mince plenty of garlic. Deep-fry the garlic until crispy. If you do this at home you may need to divide the garlic into a few batches. Then add the dried chili flakes. Throw in some fermented black beans if you like. You can skip the MSG. But go heavy on salt to the sauce. Sea salt is best. That's what I remember of those chili sauce served in Hong Kong wonton noodle shops.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Yeah, exactly, get a pan of hot oil, throw in green onion, dry red chili (grind it up), salt, MSG, whatever else. Then let it fry until the oil is red. Put it in a jar. You can pour off that red oil into dishes, too. The red oil is even more useful than the chili sauce.

老干妈 is good, though. I like the kind with black beans. I actually found 老干妈 in Canada for $1.99. Not much more expensive than in any Carrefour in China. Same with lots of other sauces in jars and dry ingredients.

I actually kind of like the soupy red sauce you get in southern Jiangsu and Shanghai. Bright red, only mildly spicy, a bit vinegary. Great poured into a bowl of wonton. It's a bit like the red chili sauce you get with stinky tofu.

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Yeah, exactly, get a pan of hot oil, throw in green onion, dry red chili (grind it up), salt, MSG, whatever else. Then let it fry until the oil is red. Put it in a jar. You can pour off that red oil into dishes, too. The red oil is even more useful than the chili sauce.

I would suggest using shallots instead of green onions. The fried bits of shallot is lovely to bit into. I used to make my own using fresh AND dried red chilis, even with habanero peppers for extreme heat.

I have been using a store bought jar: Saigon Hot Sauce - Oil'n'Chili. It's a product of Vietnam and imported by a company in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I used to buy it in Chinese grocery stores, but I see it is also available in our Safeway stores. It's expensive, at between 3.50 - 4.00 /250 ML, but very tasty.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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...老干妈 is good, though. I like the kind with black beans. I actually found 老干妈 in Canada for $1.99. Not much more expensive than in any Carrefour in China. Same with lots of other sauces in jars and dry ingredients.

....

There is something about 老干妈 (Old Godmother brand) chili oils.... I don't know what it is. The flavor is very strong. I think it is overly so MSGeeed. But I might be wrong. Can't take more than a spoonful of chili oil or else head will spin. Symptom of MSG side effect?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Every big grocery store in China has a hundred clones, featuring various semi-scowling portraits. I like Lao Gan Ma, though. Even just rolled up in Chinese flat bread (馍馍, shout out to 徐州), tasty.

My wife says 老干妈 has changed over the years, though, tastes different from when it first appeared.

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