535: Chili Crisp with J. Kenji López-Alt

Molly 0:04

I'm Molly.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:05

And I'm Matthew.

Molly 0:06

And this is spilled milk. The show where we cook something delicious. Eat it all into you can't have any.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:11

And today we're talking about chili, Chrisp.

Molly 0:14

Oh my gosh, I feel like we're only like two years late to this party. That's more on time than we planned other parties.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:21

Yeah, it is more on time.

Molly 0:24

What were you gonna say?

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:26

I don't even know. Right Start though.

Molly 0:29

We are. This episode was suggested by listener and guest, Kenji Lopez alt,

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:36

but But will he be a guest on this episode, we'll say, Oh, whoops.

Molly 0:40

That's what we do. You

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:42

got it. You gotta tease the audience like, hey, you know if you if you keep listening, like maybe maybe I'll show you my six pack abs. That's That's it. That's my how I tease.

Molly 0:53

Yeah. Okay. Well, Matthew, tell me about your chili crisp memory lane.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:59

That you say tell me about your six pack abs. Well,

Molly 1:01

no, I've I've seen them at the nude beach.

Matthew Amster-Burton 1:04

That's right. Yeah. I mean, I like trying not to look at them. Yeah, like but but there was there was like a lot of definition there. Right? Mm hmm. Like real food writer abs.

Molly 1:14

Oh, yeah. The sun was like rippling off your skin. Like the ripples of muscle is what I mean.

Matthew Amster-Burton 1:20

Yeah, cuz I covered my cover myself with muscles that I gathered off. Mossy rock. Okay. That was such a dad. Yeah, was alright, so my chili crisp memory lane. There was like a moment where all of a sudden, like non Chinese food writers all of a sudden really got into Lau gone mob brand chili crisp. And if you had asked me like, before we sat down start recording this episode. And I should specify I'm actually standing up. I would have said that was like 2014. But apparently I'm way off.

Molly 1:54

No, Matthew. So I did the research for this episode. And I too, was surprised to discover that that was slow, like 2020 2021 depending on sort of what what demographic of non Chinese food writers we're talking about.

Matthew Amster-Burton 2:12

Yeah, I know. I had some in my house before that. But like I I tried to maintain my cutting edge status.

Molly 2:19

Well, so here's, here's what I found on the old interwebs. So I think that non Chinese food writers and chefs first got into it in like, or at least it kind of became like a trendy ingredient for people in the know, in 2020. There's an extensive eater piece from mid 2020. About chefs using it to it, we can link to it. Yes. Mid 2020. You know, we've got chefs using it. Well then, basically, is someone called it the like quarantine pantry must have I think that someone was Sam Sifton from the New York Times. Okay, that makes all of a sudden. So like, you know, it kind of made this crossover from having become sort of like acutely trendy in like non Chinese restaurants and non Chinese food writers. And then all of a sudden became something that everyone had to have.

Matthew Amster-Burton 3:15

It's it's funny that you mentioned this because like, I I'm only realizing just now that I had a like quarantine must have hot sauce that I was putting on everything, but it was a different one. Yeah. What was it? It was the the secret Aardvark Benares? Yes. Yeah, it's good stuff. Like I, I was like, I need I ran out of hot sauce. I'm like, What can I throw a hot sauce into the QFC? Order? Oh, I've heard of this one. I'll try that. It was great. Like, I've been putting it on everything ever since?

Molly 3:43

Well, yeah. So Sam Sifton would write a little email that would arrive in the inboxes of New York Times cooking subscribers. And in just

Matthew Amster-Burton 3:54

a little email,

Molly 3:55

Sam SIFT, little email. He doesn't like it when you call it little. Anyway, it was in April 2020. He declared it a quarantine cooking need. And that I think was really the beginning of like the main stream,

Matthew Amster-Burton 4:09

boom, boom, boom, explosion. Okay, that makes sense.

Molly 4:13

Yeah. And then I think that the explosion trickled I'm not sure where this metaphor goes. trickled into 2021. Okay, yeah. And here we are in early 2020. To talk

Matthew Amster-Burton 4:25

about I love how it explosion trickles. Yeah, yeah. This morning on the way to the bus teenager the show December asked me whether spontaneous human combustion is a thing that's ever really happened.

Molly 4:39

Did you talk about whales exploding like when they get beached?

Matthew Amster-Burton 4:44

No, but that's

Molly 4:46

how you scrambled to answer that for me.

Matthew Amster-Burton 4:48

I was I was trying to figure out if you're talking about like, like from from like, like gas buildup or when they blew up that whale using explosives?

Molly 4:54

No, I think it's also I mean, gas buildup is a real problem.

Matthew Amster-Burton 4:58

Tell me about it. Yeah. Yeah,

Molly 5:01

I almost exploded last night.

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:03

Yes, but But we're talking about like a person like suddenly bursting into flames for pitches from from internal sources.

Molly 5:12

Did you look it up?

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:13

No, I didn't look it up because it's definitely not a real thing.

Molly 5:17

But such weird things happen sometimes. Yeah, sure. I mean, have you ever had a human body? Yes. Okay, weird.

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:25

There is gas buildup and other weird things. That's true. But okay, but like a fiery explosion. I Brian, sorry.

Molly 5:32

Okay, fine. Fine. Okay, well, hold on. Now. Let's get into talking about Chile. Chris. Listen, this happens all the time. trickles to happen all the time. Whether you want them to or not right. Okay, so yeah, Chile crisp. Let's define it for anyone who want to trickle dab in it. It doesn't. Okay. So Chile CRISPR which is can be spelled either chili, or C H I L

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:58

E depending we had this conversation on the chili oil episode. Also,

Molly 6:02

chili crisp is a spicy and crispy condom and it's basically a type of hot sauce made with fried chili pepper and other aromatics that are infused into oil. So you know, there are tons of homemade and commercial varieties. We'll talk more about this but the most popular brand is Lao Gan mA which combines like the the numbing qualities you get with Sichuan pepper with crunchy roasted soybeans. Anyway, the idea of chili crispy originated in Chinese cuisine, and according to Wikipedia, it has been described as going with anything and everything.

Matthew Amster-Burton 6:40

Yes, even ice cream,

Molly 6:44

even ice cream. Anyway,

Matthew Amster-Burton 6:46

another teaser, I tried to trick all these teasers in like an explosion that later trickles.

Molly 6:51

I love the history of this actually, I have a lot of fun looking at the history of chili crisp. So you know, as one might imagine infused oil, like you know, hot, spicy condiments have been made and used all over the world for centuries, but also in China, which is what we're gonna be focusing on today. And of course, there are lots of regional variations like in southern China, apparently it's common to simmer the ingredients in oil, whereas in northern China, it's more common to like pour just super hot oil over the chili peppers. And

Matthew Amster-Burton 7:24

that's that's how I make it because I use a Sichuan ease recipe and it's, it's very fun to like, heat up some oil really hot and then dump it on Chili's and have it all so yeah.

Molly 7:33

Anyway, it's the kind of thing that home cooks and restaurants tend to develop their own version of, and it's not all that different from what we call chilli oil. It just has to do with like the ratio of chunky stuff to oil, right?

Matthew Amster-Burton 7:49

Yeah. Now, when you say chunky stuff, could there be like a song about chunky stuff? Oh,

Molly 7:55

we could try to drop it in. Okay, so my spouse and I keep a a voice memo catalogue of special songs that we've made up songs like about our guinea pig and songs about

Matthew Amster-Burton 8:09

your special songs because I have like hundreds of special songs that I've improvised over the years, but I've never thought to record them.

Molly 8:16

Oh, Ash records them all. They're all on their phone. So we have a special song that I made up about Alice we have a song about about Percy being really small and needing to assert his masculinity anyway, but one song we have is called chunky stuff. And ash made it up while putting like a egg into their bowl of instant ramen. Okay, maybe we'll drop that in.

Matthew Amster-Burton 8:40

You don't want to just give us an acapella rendition right now.

Molly 8:44

Chunky stuff. Chunky stuff. Pouring it inside my bowl chunky stuff. Make something boring interesting. Better. Yeah, yeah. Okay, thank you for for that. Anyway. Okay, but the deal with chili crisp is unlike chili oil, it's not portable. Okay, so you would you would take a spoonful of chili crisp. And also chili crisp is all about the texture. Yeah. So I want to talk about Lao grandma. Which is like the brand behind the chili crisp explosion that turned into a trickle. Yeah, we're gonna just keep pushing this as far as it'll go. Okay. Lau gone Ma is a brand that you have probably seen dear listener, it is it is like the brand of chilli Crispin launched in 1997. And the company is

Matthew Amster-Burton 9:34

so surprising to me. Like I never would have guessed that. Like they didn't know that knew that. It's that new right? Because because like it has a very like venerable looking label to it. It's I guess that either it was like very, very new and like just came out in like 2017 or that, that it was yeah, it was founded in like the 30s.

Molly 9:53

Yeah, no, that and the story is wonderful. I really I visited multiple Wikipedia A page to bring this story to you. So the company was created by a female Chinese restaurant her name Tao Hobie, in Guangzhou province. And Tao has this pretty remarkable story. She was born in a very poor village and she was the eighth girl born to the family to a big family here. She married young had two sons, but then her husband died when her kids were young. And she did all kinds of things to support her family. She worked on a construction site, she sold vegetables in like a stall and a vegetable market. And then eventually, she opened in 1989. A restaurant apparently well on Wikipedia, it's described as being in a simple shed. Apparently, she specialized in noodles, and she sauce these noodles with her own version of this like crispy, crunchy, delicious chili, Chris. All right. And in 1994 She liked the chili. Chris was so popular that by that point, she was mostly just selling chili crisp out of this restaurant.

Matthew Amster-Burton 10:59

I still can't get over the fact that like all this happened, like in your lifetime during my life, like when I was like old enough that I could have been there. I know you could have like gone to her her noodle restaurant I

Molly 11:10

didn't. But I got it. What a shame anyway, so she created her company, Lau grandma, which I saw on Wikipedia means either old godmother or like old mother. Okay, but Lau grandma was created in 1997. She hired something like 40 employees and rented like a house to use as a factory. And her chili crisp quickly became popular became a household staple in China. According to an article I read on today.com, she retired as a multi billionaire. Wow. And in 2017, when she was 70 years old, she was voted the hottest woman in China. But do you think it was like a pun?

Matthew Amster-Burton 11:52

I don't I don't know. But I kind of hope it wasn't. I hope it wasn't right. Yeah. Like her face is on the label. Right? I assume that's her or is that just like, like a Betty Crocker type?

Molly 12:03

You know, I don't know why I didn't think to look into that.

Matthew Amster-Burton 12:08

I mean, let's, let's assume yes, that it's the interface of the label. I love I love the face on the label of the logo on my jar. Me too. It reminds me of how like, if you are a ramen chef in Japan, and you are going to like pose for a photo for like an ad for your restaurant or an article or whatever. You have to make a face like ramen is serious business. And I'm a serious person. It makes me laugh every time.

Molly 12:35

We should we should collect these. Yeah, you should send them to me.

Matthew Amster-Burton 12:39

Okay. There's a ramen chef calendar.

Molly 12:43

Oh, I hope so.

Matthew Amster-Burton 12:44

I've had this thought occasionally. That like, if we could just get like 1% of people in China to listen to spilled milk, we would be set. Right? We could retire as multi-billion. Exactly. That's because thing. All she had to do was get everyone in China to buy one bottle.

Molly 13:02

I know. And she was just done. Right. Exactly. So it's interesting to me, actually, I feel like it took a relatively short amount of time for her chili crisp to then also become an international sensation. So you figured it hit the market in 97? Well, in the 2010s is when it it became a big deal internationally that sure that long no product, you know. So yeah, it was internationally known in the 2010s. And then, of course, became a big deal in the US during the you know, the early days of the COVID pandemic. So yeah, I want to you know, move toward thinking a bit about our guest. Okay, let's

Matthew Amster-Burton 13:43

move let's let's take a like an inch toward our guest. Well, I

Molly 13:47

really enjoyed what our guest Kenji Lopez alt said about Chile, Chris in his new book, the wok, which just came out a couple weeks ago. I'm gonna read it. Sure I'll read it. He says there is a wide range of crispy chili oils that is unstrained chili oil with a large volume of chili and other aromatic debris left in the bottle. From mild Japanese varieties to hotter chili oils. I just want to call attention to the debris. I yes conjures up visions of like a tornado in a bottle. Anyway,

Matthew Amster-Burton 14:20

wow. That would be a great slogan for something right? I mean, probably probably lost, but like, I don't know.

Molly 14:27

Okay, well, hold on. I'm going to continue with Ken with this little excerpt from Kennedy's book the walk. Remember when people were putting qui Fong Sriracha on everything? I sure remember. Thankfully, those days are over and we've now started spooning Sichuan spicy chili crisp. Specifically, Lao gotten my brand on everything. I've appreciated the upgrade. Though I still question why we must collectively have one sauce to rule them all. Logan Ma has a few more ingredients than typical crispy chili oils including peanuts, and citrusy One peppercorns. You know, one thing that I found helpful in thinking about chili crisp like if you've never had it, I mean, do we think any of our listeners have never had? I think some of our listeners have never had it. One thing that I found really helpful in thinking about it like and how it differs from other like, quote unquote hot sauces is it's not vinegary. Sure. And I think we are so used to thinking about hot sauce as a vinegary thing, at least in the non like non Chinese.

Matthew Amster-Burton 15:25

Yeah. Like, yeah, if you got like a, like a Cholula, or a Tabasco? Totally, totally, it's gonna have our topic to it's gonna have tons of vinegar.

Molly 15:34

And so what what's been really fun for me about trying a number of different brands of chili crisp, and we'll, we'll talk about one in particular here in a minute. Is that like, there is tons of flavor in this stuff. And it's not actually that spicy, which was very surprising to me. It's like, it's more about the complexity, at least for me more about the umami, It's so savory. Yeah. And so, the texture totally and actually, I think Kenji is going to be able to tell us a little bit about why the texture is so special, and like maybe how it stays so crispy, even though it's sitting there in oil, right?

Matthew Amster-Burton 16:12

Yeah. You've mentioned friend of the show, Kenji Lopez alt named like, 17 times on this episode, like, Do you think there's any chance we could get him on the episode like right now to talk to us about chili, Crisp?

Molly 16:24

Uh, you know, I actually have a feeling that he might be calling in here to our recording studio now.

Okay, well, welcome back to the show, Kenji Lopez Alt, and thank you for suggesting today's episode as well. Let's talk about chili crisp. What made you suggest chili crisp?

J. Kenji López-Alt 16:52

Hmm, well, it's because I I've recently was gifted a jar of Katikati, which is the local Seattle brand of chili crisp that I thought was the most delicious brand of chili crisp. I've tried. And so I thought it'd be fun to talk about

Molly 17:08

I was given a jar of Katikati as well as a gift. And anyway, I was so excited that you mentioned it. I love that we have the same sort of origin story for it. It is delicious.

Matthew Amster-Burton 17:19

I was given a tablespoon of it as a guest. But I'm looking forward to try it's got it's got big chunks.

J. Kenji López-Alt 17:26

Yes. Yeah. I mean, it reminds me the most of like, homemade chili, Chris. Yes.

Molly 17:31

So hold on. Okay. So Matthew, yes. What are we gonna ask him? Okay, well,

Matthew Amster-Burton 17:38

we did an episode a few a few months ago about chili oil. And I feel like chili crisp is a is a product or condiment that is related to chili oil and could be considered a type of chili oil, but has like its own distinguishing characteristics like what, what makes something a chili crisp to you, and where, where is the crisp Enos coming from.

J. Kenji López-Alt 18:01

So Chile oils, I mean, the range obviously, so some of them are clear. And some of them have a lot of sort of debris in them. But generally, when you're talking about Chile crisp, first of all, like the pieces of Chile are bigger so that when they they get slowly fried, and they lose all their moisture, because you know, even dried chilies have some moisture in them. So they get slowly, slowly fried and lose all their moisture. And that's what makes them the little bits crispy. But then typically chili crisp. There's also other things in there that will add to the crisp Enos so slices of garlic slices of shallot, sometimes peanuts, that are also just sort of really really slowly fried so that you basically completely dehydrated is sort of the way you would make like a like a potato chip right where you want to where the goal is to fry it until the point that all the moisture is driven off and that it's crispy, but without right over browning it to the point that it turns bitter, right. So yeah, so chili crisp is basically just like chili oil that happens to have a lot of bits of crispy stuff in it. And the flavor, you know, the flavor profile of chili crisp is generally not particularly spicy. Yeah, but generally more sort of savory and sweet because you get a lot of sweetness out of the shallots and the garlic and then usually there's also some mix of kind of warm spices in there so it could be you know Sichuan pepper star anise cumin, sometimes cardamom sometimes like ginger, things like that. And then also very often sort of Ms. You know, mommy rich ingredients. So it could be MSG. Some brands have mushroom powder, things

Molly 19:27

like reserved black beans. What brands do you are so we were we're obviously talking about Katikati today. The the sort of original brand is Logan Ma, is that it? Yeah.

J. Kenji López-Alt 19:41

And that's I mean, that's the one that I think people are gonna be most familiar with.

Matthew Amster-Burton 19:43

Sure. Yeah, they sell They not only sell it at like my local QFC but they sell like two variations. I think they were out of the original and I got the other one which is which is sort of like on the edge of being chilly Chris but I'm excited to taste it. Okay, so the thing that I that I am not sure about about chilli crisp and like don't want to get wrong is it's not clear to me whether like how long this product has existed in China and whether it is something that is like new new to to sort of the general North American market but has been around in vintage enjoyed in China for a while, or is like a relatively new innovation by a Chinese sauce company.

j 20:26

So it's been around for a long time. I mean, chili oils have been around for a very long time. And you know, and it's like one of those things where every restaurant has their own version. So a lot of places will make their oils by sort of pouring hot hot oil over a bowl full of aromatics and other places will simmer the aromatic slowly in the oil. So I think it'd be ludicrous to suggest that in you know, in the hundreds I'm not even sure how long would maybe 1000s of years of people making various infused chili oils and none of them accidentally made something that was also crispy and thought, Oh, this is good. But surely the way we know it now, you know, log on mom. She started that company in the mid 90s. Certainly like what we know in the US as Chile oil and what I think has now taken over China as well is this Logan ma version.

Matthew Amster-Burton 21:12

Okay, so what I ended up here with is fried chili and oil, which I think is a little different.

J. Kenji López-Alt 21:17

Yeah, so that one, I think it's the same but it doesn't have like the like the garlic and the and the little chunks of stuff in it.

Molly 21:24

So one thing that I read as sort of distinguishing thing about chili crisp as opposed to chili oil, is the chili crisp is is I guess at least in most households and restaurants used as a condiment as opposed to a cooking flavoring, like something that you would use in the actual cooking process. Do you find that to be true in your own cooking?

J. Kenji López-Alt 21:46

Certainly, it's a condiment I but I would also think that you know, chili oil is typically a condiment or something, or at least chili oil is something that you would it's a table condiment, you might finish a dish with chili oil. So if you're making something like like mapo tofu, right, you would finish it with chili oil, so and you would serve it with like a big slug of chili oil on the top. Mm hmm. And there are many dishes like that, particularly from you know, Sichuan and changxing that are that are made that way. But both of them I think are have sort of relatively similar use cases. You know, the thing I think you wouldn't do with a chili crisp, is put it in a dish that's like being simmered and then let it cook for a while because then all the crispy bits are not crispy anymore. Yeah, in that sense. Maybe you do want to finish with chili crisp, like only at the table. But I would consider both of them more sort of a condiment and like a finishing ingredient as opposed to

Matthew Amster-Burton 22:35

Alright, you guys. I couldn't wait. And I tried the kadhi kadhi. And it's so good. It is right. Yeah. So who makes this? I don't I hadn't even heard of it until the two of you started talking about it.

J. Kenji López-Alt 22:44

It's it's a I think it's a husband and wife in Seattle. They have an Instagram and I you know what, after I tried to actually reach out to them is the two of them plus one. One employee that makes all of it and make it by hand and they bottle it by hand. And I think they're gonna have to ramp up their production at some point because they are getting very popular. Okay. Yeah, the Katikati is the one that reminds me most of homemade. So like this. I don't know if you're familiar with sola sola Wiley's recipe from serious eats a couple years ago. But she did a recipe that is very elaborate, and it takes a long time to make

Matthew Amster-Burton 23:22

Yes, I have. I've not made this but I've seen this recipe for sure.

J. Kenji López-Alt 23:26

The most difficult part is really dehydrating the garlic and the shallots without burning them because they can you know, garlic if you've ever made like fried shallots, like Thai style fried shallots, or garlic. It goes from like being sweet and delicious to being burnt and gross. Like really quickly. Yes. And so you know this her recipe you have to do that with a ton of Charlotte's and a ton of garlic. And then there's a bunch of different chilies that you mix together. But it's so so good at my restaurant, which I'm not associated with any more but I my former restaurant. We did a late night Chili's Sunday, chili crisp Sunday.

Matthew Amster-Burton 23:59

Is that what Molly's eating right now?

J. Kenji López-Alt 24:01

Yeah, chili crispy.

Molly 24:04

I bought some Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream. And I have let it soften just a little bit, too. It's like just right and I put the kadhi kadhi chili crisp on it and it is so good. It's like way more than the sum of its parts. It does really cool things with the dairy and with the vanilla flavor.

J. Kenji López-Alt 24:24

It's surprising it's like one of those things just like you hear it and you think it's gonna sounds gross and then you tasting like wow, this is really good

Molly 24:30

at trying it for the first time the texture of almost like, you know, this really crispy, almost dehydrated garlic with the ice cream is so much less. It's not gimmicky. It seems like it would be gimmicky and it's not. Oh, man.

Matthew Amster-Burton 24:42

It's so good.

Molly 24:44

It's so good.

J. Kenji López-Alt 24:45

Have you had this before Matthew?

Matthew Amster-Burton 24:46

Mm hmm.

J. Kenji López-Alt 24:47

Yeah. This morning, I was talking to my daughter this morning or last night I was talking to my daughter. And I can't remember what she What flavors she mentioned. But she said like, Have you ever tried this? And I said, I've never tried it but I like I don't think I've ever Then interested in and she goes, Well, how do you know if you've never tried it? Yeah. And I was like, well, that's a good point and then let you know. And then I tried to explain to her well, it's like, you know, it's like, if you play, if you play, like, if you paint a lot, for example, like, you don't need to actually mix the red and yellow together to know that you're going to get orange, right? Or if you like, you know, Matthew, like you're a musician, it's like, if you play a lot of music are you using composing you don't need to see what like a G and A, B, you don't need to go to the piano and push what a G and A B are gonna sound like together to know what it sounds like in your head. And so it's similar cooking, where it's like, if you do it a lot, you can kind of get an idea of what things are going to taste like without actually having to do it. But this is one of those cases where it tastes really different than I ever imagined it was going to taste them.

Molly 25:38

Yeah. I love Oh, that's really good.

Matthew Amster-Burton 25:42

No, I wrote about in my book hungry monkey many years ago, but like, apparently, I'm still plugging it for some reason. It's a great bet. Like, I think for kids and adults, like the moment when you like realize that you like a new flavor is very rarely the moment when you taste it. It's like later when you've had a chance to kind of like simmer in your mind. This is an exception to that. Like because I did not know if I was gonna like this. I could have seen it going either way. And I love it.

Molly 26:09

My spouse is a huge ice cream eater, like we go through vast quantities of ice cream. And they also like easily demolish a jar of chili crisp. I'm very excited to tell them about this. So what is going on in this Katikati because this is so much more than, you know, just the flavor of chilies simmered in oil.

J. Kenji López-Alt 26:32

I can read you the ingredients list. Okay. All right. So it's canola oil, peanuts, garlic, dried chilies, sugar, Charlotte's sesame oil, fermented soybeans, Sichuan peppercorn spices, which they don't specify, but I think I mean, I taste some star nice and Rolly, maybe a little cardamom REDcard. moving their mushroom seasoning, sea salt and Tomari powder. So there's a lot of like, super intense. Yeah, umami.

Molly 26:57

The sesame oil, I think is also really showing up in Yes,

Matthew Amster-Burton 27:01

I think the peanuts make a big difference. I think that's part of why it works. So well. For me with ice cream, I'm sure I would also like the low gamma, which I don't think has peanuts on ice cream. But

J. Kenji López-Alt 27:10

I think there is one version of low gamma that has been pretty sure but

Molly 27:15

there's something about the particular like the the amount of chunky stuff and the amount of crunchy stuff in Karikari. It sounds so good when you start. Like not all chili crisps. Like, for a while I was buying fly by Jing. And it's delicious. It doesn't sound as good. I gotta tell you the Katikati sounds so good.

J. Kenji López-Alt 27:39

They see them side by side. I mean, the fly batching they have a very different profile. Yeah, the fly by drink is a lot more sort of savory, I think and a lot more sort of fermented bean flavor. Yeah, less less of the crispy garlic.

Matthew Amster-Burton 27:49

You guys, I'm like, I'm doing that thing. Where have you ever done the thing like and Molly's gonna laugh at me is if I've ever done a home improvement project of any kind, where you open it open a can of paint using a screwdriver and then you use the screwdriver to to stir the pain and ruin your screwdriver.

Molly 28:06

I've not done that, but I could see it

Matthew Amster-Burton 28:07

how Okay, well bear with me. Because Have you I'm wait Matthew, have you ever been tempted to do it? And right now what I'm trying to do is I only have one spoon here and I've been using it to eat ice cream and I keep wanting to dip it in the other jars of chili crisp to taste them but then I'm gonna get ice cream in those jars.

Molly 28:24

Well. Ice cream off. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for having the same idea here. Matthew. What are you Matthew, come on now just lick the spoon.

Matthew Amster-Burton 28:35

I like this. Problem solved. Thanks, everybody.

Molly 28:40

So Kenji, what do you eat? And just think I must have chili crisp with this. I mean, I'm thinking like, for instance, noodles. Yeah, for me.

J. Kenji López-Alt 28:50

So I mean, so that would be sort of my chili. Chris. Memory Lane is noodles. So I had a friend. I still have a friend. He's still he's still alive. He's still with us.

Molly 28:59

He's He's still your friend.

J. Kenji López-Alt 29:00

He is. We live in different cities now. But Jimmy, so there was a period when all our entire group of friends, everyone was having babies, and we would have baby showers all the time. And Jimmy, like his signature move at baby showers was to always bring this cold Sichuan noodle that his parents, his parents are from Sichuan. And so it was this dish that he learned from his parents, so it's cold wheat noodles that he would bring in like a Ziploc bag. And then in one jar, he would have this dressing, which was made with black vinegar, soy sauce, um, there's a recipe in the book, by the way, but black vinegar, soy sauce, sesame seeds, scallion, some aromatics, and then in a separate jar, he would have chili crisp, but he would come to the baby shower, put the noodles in a bowl, put the dressing on it, toss it and then have the chili crisp on the side for people to like scoop on as much as they want. And that to me is like, I mean, it always went fast and he always had a backup bag under the table. But that was like the flavor of the flavor of baby showers was these like cold, cold sexual noodles with chili crisp and that was sort of my introduction also To log on, like the popular brand

Molly 30:03

I love that being the flavor fades. Sounds

Matthew Amster-Burton 30:05

like you're suggesting that maybe people were like having an extra baby or two just to get like more Jimmy's noodles. Yeah.

Molly 30:12

Yeah, Matthew, you're about to have an empty bedroom. That's true.

Matthew Amster-Burton 30:15

We could start over. It's a great kick get Jimmy to come to your house. No, we weren't planning to have any more. But now that I heard that, like, we might get noodles. Yeah, yeah.

J. Kenji López-Alt 30:25

There's that my other favorite dish to make with it is super simple. So you guys know, smash cucumbers. Yes. Yeah. So you just like you basically like takes cucumbers you smash them with the side of a cleaver, chop them into pieces, and then dress him with vinegar, a little soy sauce, salt, sugar. What I like to do is I get a wide bowl, I put Greek yogurt or lab name on the bottom of the bowl, like spread it all around, and then smash a bunch of cucumbers, dress them with vinegar, garlic, and a ton of chilli oil, and then put them on top of the yogurt and yolk and then you mix it all together as you're eating in this yogurt and yogurt and chili crisp. I think those flavors work really well together.

Molly 31:02

Oh, that sounds so good.

J. Kenji López-Alt 31:03

You can also add like a little like mint or like, you know, like herbs if you want mint, sliced onions, stuff like that.

Matthew Amster-Burton 31:09

Okay, we're sure gonna make that I just I just tasted all three of the chili crisps that I have here that the LAO Gama that have is is fairly similar to the to the original. It has got less garlic and more toasted soybeans, I think and the fly by Jing and the kadhi kadhi. They're all so different. They're all good. The Fly by Jang I think is the closest to what I think of as like a chili oil that's not a chili crisp. Because like like Molly said, it doesn't it doesn't have a lot of crispy chew to it. But the flavor is very, super savory and intense. The kadhi kadhi. Like has the it has the most complex flavor and the most crunchy stuff and I think is the best on ice cream. But the LAO Gama is incredibly balanced between those. And like I can see why it's the standard. Okay, I know everyone everyone's been waiting for my Cellie crisp report. Yeah, I

Molly 31:58

needed to know that you could see why it was the standard. Oh, I

J. Kenji López-Alt 32:01

stopped last week I put some of the Katikati on a like an Italian hoagie. Look at Italian sauce. Yeah, that sounds really good.

Molly 32:09

Ash makes a lot of instant ramen for lunch, ramen. And then they crack an egg in there and sort of make almost like an egg drop ramen situation. And they pile that stuff with chili crisp to the like, you know, to the point of feeling a little a little sweaty. We just actually went through the end of our Katikati so I'm very grateful to you for bringing over this little spoonful in a in a container me

Matthew Amster-Burton 32:34

yeah, I'm gonna be I'm gonna be ordering this for sure.

J. Kenji López-Alt 32:37

If you like chili Crispin, but don't do spicy things too well. You can get Japanese garlic chili oils. So like SMB is one I think there's other other companies that make them that are tons of chili flavor, tons of crispy garlic bits and virtually no heat at all. So like my daughter loves taking that and scooping doing it in her ramen, like scooping it into ramen.

Matthew Amster-Burton 32:59

So I've a story about this actually. Teenager the show December back when they were going to summer camp one year said like I'm looking forward to camp but the food is kind of bland Is it okay if I take this jar of s&p Tibet Tibet who die you with me to camp they did not end up actually bringing jelly oil to camp but but they did they did threaten to it would have been a better story if they actually had but you know,

Molly 33:23

Oh my My kid is going to the same camp. Yes. Summer so

Matthew Amster-Burton 33:28

variety of chili crisps. Yes, it's great. Perfect.

J. Kenji López-Alt 33:32

Didn't people used to do that like in? Didn't people used to take like they have like little containers where they take their own salt with them to restaurants like obnoxious people in the 90s This This is

Matthew Amster-Burton 33:41

something I remember reading in an article by Jeffrey Stein garden Jeffrey Stein garden alleging that prma did this. I think a

Molly 33:50

lot of people do this like the Jacobson sea salt company actually made little containers almost like little like Carmex containers.

Matthew Amster-Burton 33:57

Yes. That Molly do you stop here amaze number on your phone?

Molly 34:02

I think I probably have it in an email somewhere. Let's get him on the show.

Matthew Amster-Burton 34:05

Yes, he is available now. Great. I get it maybe it wasn't for me and I just like I was gonna say slandered but is that slander landlord.

J. Kenji López-Alt 34:13

I was gonna mention before that I do have a recipe for that chili Chris Sunday with so it's chilly for Sunday with like a mala peanut streusel. I have a recipe on the New York Times for that. Okay. And they have a link. And then you know, I would recommend using Solas recipe for the chili, chili oil. They also have a link to their own chili oil.

Molly 34:34

And then is Jimmy's noodle noodle dish in in your new book. It is

Unknown Speaker 34:40

yeah. Oh great. And actually and the cucumber salad thing is also in the book.

Matthew Amster-Burton 34:43

Oh, fantastic. Okay, okay. And that book is called The Walk recipes and techniques. Uh huh. Written by a listener of the show, Kenji. Yeah, I hope that's on the cover.

Molly 34:51

Yeah, but don't don't specify which show just let's say instead of instead of welcoming Kenji on To the show our guest today was can

Matthew Amster-Burton 35:11

kitty cat he was last on the show like five years ago. It's amazing how much more professional and put together things. Since then it's like it's like a well lubricated factory over here.

Molly 35:22

We've retreated into our closets, leaking spoons off and wiping them on bath towels.

J. Kenji López-Alt 35:29

But last time I had a really good time eating eating meat. Yes and Matthews dining kitchen. Yeah,

Matthew Amster-Burton 35:35

well, we'll have you backwards studio again. Maybe sometime in the future.

J. Kenji López-Alt 35:40

I was thinking back then how professional you were because you had like some cushions against the wall to keep the sound.

Matthew Amster-Burton 35:45

Yeah, yeah. So still got some, some some acoustic paneling.

Molly 35:49

Okay. Wait, should I try? Yeah. Okay. All right. We were thrilled today to have as a guest J. Kenji Lopez alt, who I think you all probably know, not just because you just listened to him here on the show. But because he is a wildly popular New York Times food columnist and the chief culinary advisor for serious eats, and also the author of the acclaimed book, The Food Lab. You probably also know his YouTube show, which I guess we have to admit is extremely popular more than our show. It's called Ken gees cooking show. It's on YouTube. And his latest book is The Walk recipes and techniques which just came out on March 8, and is available everywhere books are sold.

Matthew Amster-Burton 36:33

Alright, it's good that we made candy. Wait around while we did that.

Molly 36:38

Yeah, yeah. Thanks. Thanks for listening.

Matthew Amster-Burton 36:42

Alright, big thanks again for being on the show. Yeah, we'll do this in person. Next time I've got I've got a good feel

J. Kenji López-Alt 36:48

like my daughter is going to be thrilled because we listen to the show together in the car. And every time you like, you occasionally mentioned my name on the show. And every time she's like, Papa, they're talking about you. And she loves it. So she will be thrilled to listen to these episodes.

Molly 37:04

Oh man, Kenji is the best. Yes, thank you, Kenji.

Matthew Amster-Burton 37:08

He's Welcome back anytime.

Molly 37:09

Well, so you know, there are a couple things we didn't talk about ideas for using chili crisps that I found on the internet and it sounds so delicious. I want to share them with our listeners now. Okay, so I saw a suggestion in an article on Bon Appetit website to combine chili crisp and softened butter almost like like a chili crisp compound butter and oh, that's on roasted chicken.

Matthew Amster-Burton 37:34

Oh yeah, it's

Molly 37:35

really I love the idea of chili crisp and butter.

Matthew Amster-Burton 37:38

Have I mentioned that teenager the show December like when they're home for lunch will often make a couple of fried eggs on a bowl of rice with with chili crisp. It's pretty fortunately oil pretty whatever, whatever's in the fridge.

Molly 37:50

I also am intrigued by the idea of mixing a bit of chili crisp into mayonnaise and using that on a sandwich of some sort.

Matthew Amster-Burton 37:57

Oh that that would be good. Like even like I'm you know, I'm like phobic of mayo but I would I would go for that because like sometimes I'll make Nancy Silverton's chipotle mayo, which is pretty much just commercial mayo, like chopped up chipotle and adobo and little lemon juice.

Molly 38:15

What about pizza? Would you put chili crisp on pizza?

Matthew Amster-Burton 38:18

I don't see why not. I mean, the only reason I would hesitate is that like I'm one of those people who will like blot the top of the pizza because like I want my pizza like not so greasy. But then like you know replacing the pizza grease with with chili crisp oil sounds great.

Molly 38:33

You know I don't know if this makes me this probably makes me a bad person but but everybody already knows on this show what I know so sometimes I feel like you know how some hot sauces are all about the heat right like all you can taste is like the fire of it.

Matthew Amster-Burton 38:49

There's not a lot of Dave's insanity or like not even going that far. Oh, I

Molly 38:53

don't I don't think I even know probably some of the brands that you might suggest because it's that's not my kind of hot sauce. Sure. I think of chili crisp as being like the opposite of that. It's like all about flavor with a bit of heat as well. Well yes,

Matthew Amster-Burton 39:08

that's that's definitely true sometimes.

Molly 39:10

So like last night ash and I was eating kimchi fried rice, and ash put chili crisp on theirs and offered me the bottle of chili crisp and I decided that I didn't want it because the one thing with chili crisp is it is so flavorful. That kind of anything you put it on is going to taste like chili crisp and you do lose a bit of what else is there.

Matthew Amster-Burton 39:31

Do you understand that?

Molly 39:33


Matthew Amster-Burton 39:34

but I don't I don't know. Like I'm sympathetic to that argument. And yet I am the kind of person who like when I when I like find a condiment I like I will I will use it pretty indiscriminately even if it's even if it's strong in flavor. So I mean, I guess I guess it's a real like you do you like Yeah, is there is there anything wrong with putting Telly Chris bought everything? No, definitely not. No. You know what What I think like you you may want for your kimchi fried rice if you want to add some some texture is like is like some like Fried's fried shallots,

Molly 40:09

I think that would be great fried garlic would be great. Okay, okay, I like this tip that said, I am definitely going to be returning again to Katikati chili crisp on vanilla ice cream. That was so good. I was so good. Oh, good. And so not weird. I just thought it Yeah, what

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:28

are what are like other things that like people have been telling us to try that we haven't gotten around to that are probably just as good as they said they were What about pickles and ice cream? You don't you don't have to be pregnant to enjoy it.

Molly 40:39

You don't have to be pregnant to try it. But it couldn't hurt. What else Matthew?

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:43

About jelly crisp or like other other things we should be trying. I know people are always telling me to watch some TV show that I'm never gonna watch. You're always telling you to watch some TV show. I'm

Molly 40:53

not gonna watch. Yeah,

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:54

but we both watched the Beatles document. That's that's the kind of like, boring middle aged people we are.

Molly 41:01

Oh, man. Okay. All right, Matthew, do you have a now but wow, for us today I do.

Matthew Amster-Burton 41:15

I just read a book that I really enjoyed. It's called while I was away by waka T Brown. And it is a memoir of a girl from Kansas, a Japanese American girl whose family sends her to live with her grandmother in a small town in Japan when she's in middle school in order to improve her Japanese skills. And she's so she goes to the local school, you know, just full immersion. And it's written like, you know, looking back on childhood as a as a middle aged adult, but like really, so you kind of like get that it's being seen through that lens in in a very, you know, kind of warm and and like, you know, appreciative and believable way but also really brings to life like the feelings of like being in middle school. And one thing that I really liked about it aside from like, you know, capturing things that I remember from Japan is that she really shows how like the the politics of being a like preteen are truly universal. You know, like, you know, like, shit going on with your friend groups. And like, you know, like falling in and out of friendships with people is just like, the most important thing in the world and you'll never get over it. Like having having see that go on in my own house. Just like that was That was refreshing to see like, I'm not the only parent or kid who has to deal with that.

Molly 42:41

Excellent. Okay, so that was while I was away by Walker T Brown. Yes. Well, our producer is Abby circuit tele. As always,

Matthew Amster-Burton 42:48

please rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts.

Molly 42:52

And if you want to chat with other spilled milk listeners, you can go to our subreddit, which is reddit.com/are/everything spilled milk.

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:01

What did you put chili crisp on today? What

Molly 43:03

did you put chili crisp on today? We want to know Yeah, if

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:06

you want to send us a question or a comment contact at spilled milk podcast.com It'll come to me so be nice.

Molly 43:13

Yeah, please be nice. And until next time, thank you for listening to spilled milk.

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:19

What did we say happens after the explosion the drizzle the dribble Oh, trickle but I liked the trick. Yeah, after after the explosion. The drizzle drizzle. I'm Matthew Amster-Burton.

Molly 43:32

I'm Molly Weissenberg.

I'm so glad we're recording this far.