Chili Crisp Showdown: Laoganma and Flybyjing

I've been on a bit of a chili crisp mission lately.  The Internets -- and my friends -- appear convinced that the best chili crisp is Laoganma.  Or Flybyjing.  Certainly one of them.  But which?

My answer, alas, is that you might want a bottle of each.  Or five bottles of each.  Let's jump in:


Laoganma on the left, Flybyjing on the right.  The famous slightly disapproving face of the old grandmother stares at us, contrasted with the apparently very-hard-to-print rainbow label of the newer entrant.  Opening up the containers, one is immediately struck by the color and texture differences:


Laoganma, on the left in both photos, has more "crunchy bits", but also has fewer suspended solids in the oil.  The bottle is about 3/4 full of the solid crispy bits.  The flybyjing bottle is only about 1/3 full of crispy bits.

This difference flows through to the spoonfuls below -- much more crispy stuff in the laoganma, but its oil is merely the color of chili oil, and isn't quite as flavorful.  The flybyjing oil, in contrast, is darker and thicker, probably from the mushroom powder.

Tasting them, this observation follows through as well:  The laoganma is much more crunchy, whereas the fermented black beans in the flybyjing provide a nice chewy texture.




Moving on to the ingredients, the differences become very clear:  Laoganma packs a big chunk of MSG and sugar, and uses fermented soybeans instead of fermented black beans.  This latter change causes a surprisingly large taste difference.

Taste Test

Ramen with Laoganma Chili Crisp
Laoganma is intensely salty/MSG-y/sweet, with mild-to-medium spiciness.  The taste is delightful and bright;  you can, literally, eat it with a spoon out of the bottle if you're so inclined.  There may be better uses;  I've found it an amazing topping for ramen, because it adds a distinct high note to the dish.  It pairs amazingly well with eggs.

Flybyjing is different:  It has a darker flavor profile, with a touch of almost smokiness.  It doesn't have the sugar or assertive MSG notes of flybyjing, but is spicier.  The mushroom and fermented black bean add a smooth, darker under-taste that's not as obviously discernable as the Laoganma.  Its heat lasts longer on the tongue.  Its flavors are closer to what I associate with good Ma Po Tofu.  This isn't a chili crisp to eat out of the bottle, it's a chili crisp to cook with, or to finish a dish with.  It adds more depth than Laoganma, but doesn't have quite the saltiness and brightness.

So that's the bad news:  You might just want both of them.  Price may be an issue:  Laoganma is $11 for two bottles at Amazon, with crave-satisfying prime shipping.  Flybyjing is about $15/bottle (!) for the same quantity, and must be ordered and shipped from their website.  I bought a six pack of Laoganma for $18 and plan to use it as my go-to sauce, but I'm going to keep the fridge stocked with the Flybyjing variant for more subtle dishes.


(yes, those are Amazon affiliate links, I get a bit of cash if you buy through them.  The flybyjing one is not.)

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