For the past two years, Japan has been hooked on taberu rayu, an edible version of the rayu chili oil often used in Chinese dishes. Taberu rayu, which literally means “rayu that can be eaten,” is less spicy than regular rayu and packed with a variety of goodies to give it more substance, such as fried garlic chips, fried onion and dried shrimp.

The condiment has become such a sensation that, in 2010, the word “taberu rayu” took 7th place in an annual ranking of the most significant phrases and words which entered the Japanese lexicon that year.

However, legend has it that while Japanese condiment makers were scrambling to jump on the taberu rayu bandwagon, the condiment had long since been perfected in its homeland of China.

When we learned that this legendary Chinese taberu rayu was available for purchase here in Japan, we wasted no time in securing a bottle for ourselves.

The taeru rayu in question is made by none other than Lao Gan Ma, the unrivaled leader in the world of chili-based condiments in China.

We were apprehensive at first that this Chinese version of the condiment would pack more of a kick than its Japanese counterpart, but the spiciness of the chili peppers was well balanced with the rich flavor of douchi, Chinese fermented black beans.

Conclusion: Lao Gan Ma is damn good and proves that you just can’t beat the original!

It is as versatile as it is delicious, and can be eaten with white rice and noodle dishes, or used in soups to give them a Szuchuan flavor.

We tried it with a variety of foods and found that Lao Gan Ma tastes best over a simple bed of steamed white rice, preferably left in the cooker for a bit until some of the moisture evaporates.

The founder of Lao Gan Ma, Mrs. Tao Huabi, was originally a widowed farmer with two children who had never received a school education. In order to support her family, she started a small eatery, where she employed her own homemade rayu in her meals.

The rayu soon became a local hit and eventually became so popular that, in 1996, she set up a company to manufacture and sell the rayu. In order to sign the contract establishing the new company, Tao Hubai, for the first time in her life, learned how to write the Chinese characters for her own name.

Now, Lao Gan Ma is a brand well-known throughout China and abroad, producing USD 50 million worth of chili food products a year.

Lao Gan Ma’s taberu rayu (known as ‘Falvoured Chili Sauce’ in English) is available for purchase online or at many Chinese food shops across the country.


Source:Lao Gan Ma

▼Don’t be thrown off by appearances—these are pellets of perfection!
▼Founder Tao Hubai

▼Spoon it up…

▼and dump it on rice. We guarantee you’ll be addicted!

[ Read in Japanese ]