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6 Chili Oils that Work for Any Dish



E-commerce is propping up a lot of restaurants in these tough times, and New York chefs are increasingly experimenting with Chinese-style chile oils. Some of them are after its crunchy texture and want to tap into the roaring success of Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp made in Guizhou Province. 

Here are some chile oils that will work with nearly anything. 

Mili Chili Crisp

Milu Chili Crisp (5.3-oz. jar)

Chef Connie Chung was fairly new to the chili-crisp fad before she started working at a Chinese fast-casual restaurant’s retail pantry. She created her own internal version of the chili-crisp, one that was still spicy, but had a more savory feel. What makes her creations stand out is the fermented black beans that add a unique salty flavor and the dried-shiitake-mushroom powder which gives it a distinct umami feel. 

Momofuku Chili Crunch

Momofuku Chili Crunch (5.3-oz. jar)

Culinary lab owner David Chang has created many of his own packaged goods, ranging from ssäm sauce to chickpea miso. Chang has now created his own product called Chili Crunch which borrows from Mexican condiment salsa macha as well as Lao Gan Ma. 

The extra crunchy sauce is topped by an oily layer much like what you would find in a peanut butter. Chili Crunch also has garlic, coconut sugar, shallots, seaweed, and yeast extracts as well as Chili. It does not contain MSG though. 

Sze Daddy Chili OIl

Sze Daddy Chili Oil (6-oz. jar)

According to Eric Sze, his Sze Daddy Chili Oil is a vegan version of the iconic XO sauce. The inspiration for Sze Daddy Chili Oil is Taiwanese sha-cha; a derivative of sate from South East Asia.

Sze Daddy is hot and comes in a plush texture that differs from the current trend of crunchy textures. Chang achieves this smooth texture by not frying his alliums crispy. Sze uses his Chili oil in sauces in place of butter and olive oil. He also adds it to spaghetti agio e olio. 

Black Label Junzi Chili Oil

Black Label Junzi Chili Oil (110-ml. jar)

Chile-oil veteran Chef Lucas Sin first created a spicy version of his chile oil oil with vinegar two years ago. 

Now he’s created a more aromatic version that he believes will bring more diversity to chile-oils. This limited edition comes in gift-boxes and tastes a lot milder. It also has a less chunky texture. The ingredients in Sin’s Black Label Junzi Chili Oil are Urfa Chiles, black-sesame seed oil, and charred onions. To get the sesame oil flavor to really sing, put it in a hot soup. 

Mr. Bing Chili Crisp

Mr. Bing Chili Crisp (7-oz. jar)

The story of Mr. Bing is similar to that of Tao Huabi who founded Lao Gan Ma. Huabi started by slinging noodles before creating her own chile oil. 

Bing and partner Brian Colberg were selling Jianbing, a Beijing-style stuffed crepe. They found that people were more interested in the chile sauce that accompanied the stuffed crepes and after being forced to close down his restaurants, Goldberg chose to focus on Chili Crisp, among other condiments. 

Mr. Bing Chili Crisp has a thick texture and tastes slightly sweet. 

Sichuan Oil from Blank Slate Kitchen 

Blank Slate Kitchen’s Sichuan Chili Oil (8-oz. jar)

Alex Sorenson was a professional New York cook when he started selling his own Chile Oil. Sorenson is now works full time on his condiment brand. He flavors the chile oil with chile flakes, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, black cardamom, and star anise. 

Sorenson was lunching on a Singaporean dish called mouthwatering chicken when he was inspired to create his Sichuan Chile oil. 

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Can you Replace Whole Vanilla Beans with Vanilla Bean Powder? Our Taste Test




There is a surprisingly wide range of vanilla extracts, vanilla powders, vanilla beans, and vanilla pastes available on the market. You may have wondered whether you are better off using vanilla bean powder to substitute vanilla beans. We have tested them so that you don’t have to. 

Vanilla Bean Powder

Vanilla bean powder is made from whole vanilla beans which have been ground up. This makes it cheaper than buying whole vanilla beans. Vanilla bean powder is also much easier to use than whole vanilla beans. 

If you need to substitute one for the other in a recipe, use half a teaspoon of vanilla powder to replace two inches of vanilla bean. Whatever you are baking will come out with the same beautiful specks you would get from vanilla beans. 

Vanilla bean powder is not the same as vanilla powder. The vanilla powder works best when you do not want the vanilla to affect the color of the food. You might want your vanilla cake to come out white, sans specks. We learned this information after looking up everything.

We also learned that vanilla bean powder is like vanilla beans because its quality worsens the longer it is stored. This deterioration in quality affects both vanilla beans and vanilla bean powder. We learned that vanilla bean paste is a better substitute for whole vanilla beans than vanilla bean powder. 

We ended up investing in vanilla bean powder we found on Amazon. It cost $10 an ounce which is expensive but not as expensive as vanilla beans. Two vanilla beans cost nearly $20. It can take up to 8 vanilla beans to make an ounce of vanilla beans. 

The vanilla bean powder we ordered from Amazon smelled lovely. We went ahead and used one and a half teaspoons of vanilla bean paste to make blackberry bread. The recipe called for vanilla extract but I used the vanilla powder as a substitute. The results were not what I expected. 

The vanilla flavor was present but subdued. We were hoping to be wowed by the vanilla flavor. We were also hoping to see vanilla bean specks on the bread. There weren’t any specks. The bread took on a grey tint instead. Vanilla bean powder does not achieve beautiful specks or a strong vanilla flavor. Vanilla bean paste does that for me. 

But I might use vanilla powder if I was in a bind with no way to get some vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Besides baking, the vanilla powder might be nice for smoothies, oatmeal, or even coffee. 

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Is this British Condiment the Missing Ingredient in your Life?




I grew up eating cucumber sandwiches, beans on toast, crumpets, and other typically English foods. But for some reason, I was an adult before I had the pleasure of eating my first sandwich pickle. 

It was made with butter spread uniformly on each slice and a not-too-thick cut of Gloucester and finished with a large drop of Branston Pickle. It was a precise, yet simple process that yielded a perfectly delicious sandwich. 

I fell in love with the combination of sweet, savory, acidic, and sticky flavors contrasted by the fat from the cheese. Even though I sometimes added tomato slices to what became my go-to meal when I wanted a nice lunch sans cooking. 

Once I got introduced to the Sandwich Pickle, every trip to the UK became an opportunity to stock up on Branston Pickle. 

Branston Pickle is a decidedly British condiment. It is the equivalent of Marmite or HP Sauce. Branston Pickle has maintained the same recipe since 1922 and faces little competition. The brand sells more than 17 million bottles each year.

A typical British ‘ploughman’s lunch’ comprises bread, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, and pickle. Branston pickle is present in most British kitchens.

What gives Branston Pickle its unmistakable character is the mishmash of sugar, applesauce, spices, date paste, and barley malt vinegar which gives it the quality of aged umami. The other ingredients are cauliflower, carrots, onion, and rutabaga.

It is these vegetables that make up the lumpy bits inside the pickle. These lumps may or may not settle dead center on your sandwich. 

If you do not like the lumps, there is always the smooth version of Branston Pickle. The small-chunk version of Branston Pickle spreads more evenly while still giving you something to chew. 

You can choose any of the three versions of Branston Pickle, depending on how you intend to use it. Branston Pickle has many uses beyond sandwiches.

I find the condiment just as delicious on Triscuits and sharp cheddar cheese as it is on a melted cheese toast.

I have spread Branston Pickle on dosa and used it on deviled eggs. The smooth version works better for this.

Branston has been making chutneys for a few years now. Their caramelized onion chutney is quite good – you want to partner it with a bold Stilton. But none of them beats the Branston Sandwich Pickle to me.

Seven years ago, I moved to the US. For the first time, I did not know where to buy my favorite British condiment. When I made a cheese sandwich, I used sweet lime chutney or date relish. But I still missed my beloved Branston Pickle.

One day I accidentally found a little bit of Britain tucked away in Brooklyn, New York. I walked into a lovely store called Two for the Pot at the edge of Brooklyn Heights. I was browsing a range of loose-leaf teas, coffees, jams, spices, and biscuits when I saw more than a few jars of Branston Pickle. I bought a few bags of Walker’s crisps, a pack of Hobnobs, and more than a few jars of Branston Pickle. 

Thankfully, it is now easy to buy Branston Pickle online. Only the no-chunk version seems harder to find on the internet. But it is still comforting to know that I am a few Subway stops away from a local supply of Branston Pickle. 

I may not eat it out of the jar or mix it into pasta-like some people do, but Branston Pickle is my go-to condiment for a cheese and pickle sandwich. 

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How to eat more Lobster




Lobster is huge this spring. We are into everything about lobster. We are looking at recipes, cracking equipment, napkins, and plates. So to indulge our near fanatical love for lobster, we decided to delve deep into everything lobster. 

Here is everything you need to do for a lobster-full season:

The Equipment

There is nothing worse than cracking a lobster with a rock and scattering the shell all over the kitchen. It is disrespectful. You want to have a pick to pry tasty meat from the lobster legs. Curved seafood scissors will help you to remove the meat in one piece because of its curved blades. 

Here is where you can find the best equipment for your lobster dinner. 

The Tableware

Lobsters are not exactly simple dining fare. Lobster meat is a treat. When you are having a lobster dinner, you are allowed to go all out and invest in a lobster platter, special dinner plates, and even these lovely appetizer plates. This is a set of simple yet refined tableware that is just right for lobster.

The Lobster Dinner Preparation and Dining

Once you have your lobster pot, your well-chosen lobster, some melted butter, and lemon, it is time to get to cooking and eating. 

It takes some courage to do this. You have to choose a nice and meaty one. You could give the lobster a few minutes in the freezer before putting it to a boil. But don’t get to 10 minutes because after that the meat will be frozen. Or you could use a sharp knife to stupefy it before cooking. Boiling a lobster is not that hard once you get used to it. 

Learn the proper way to boil it, halve it, carve it, crack it, serve it, and eat it. With some tips and practice, you will be able to properly fold its claws down and remove the whole tail at once. 

The Cooking Instructions

If you are nervous about preparing your first lobster, you don’t have to be. We have a range of fool-proof recipes to choose from. Everything is covered – the rolls, salad, chowder, sliders, paella, and risotto. You can go for the recipe that seems best and which features the ingredients you prefer.Lobster does not have to be boiled. Grilled lobster is oh so yummy. You can start planning your ideal lobster dinner with your favorite wine. 

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