The best Chinese hot sauce is called Laoganma
Without knowing the name, this hot sauce was elusive to find. I searched high and low all over the Internet. I had tasted it before. There are hot sauces spanning the whole range of that Scoville scale heat index. Most are just plain straight heat. Most are either plain liquid or whipped into a puree finer than baby food. Some have 2 layers of flavors, like being mostly spicy hot with a vinegary touch a la Tabasco. Very few have the robust complex layers of yummy flavors that this Chinese hot sauce has.
I knew what the jar looked like. It’s red and yellow with a stately lady’s face. But I couldn’t find an image match until I bought a jar at 99 Ranch last week and read the label over dinner tonight: LAOGANMA. And a quick Google search for Laoganma turned up 149,000 results! That’s far short of the number of jars that the LaoGanMa factory produces daily, numbered at 430,000 jars. In a day!
One blogger wrote this, echoing my palette sensibilities:
… the best hot sauces are rich, chunky, flavorful and, of course, hot. My favorites also share another characteristic—I can actually see the ingredients in the sauce, whether chili peppers, hot oil, pieces of garlic, onion bits or soybeans. Lao Gan Ma fits all my criteria. It has complexity. It has bite.
Now, here’s where I need help. Especially those of you who can read Chinese and are bilingual. I can’t read Chinese. I don’t know what it says on the jars, so I don’t know what I’m getting into with the 3 different jars above. Can you explain and enlighten me before I do my taste test?