At some point in the pandemic, chili crisp had a real heyday in the States. My targeted social media ads were all for vibrant red jars of chili crisp that could be mailed right to my door, and I started to recognize it drizzled on the dumplings of my favorite food influencers. I knew that I needed to start educating myself on the hot condiment with Chinese origins. Tao Huabi first created Lao Gan Ma chili crisp in 1997. That is the foundational recipe for the spicy, crunchy umami drizzle that can adorn any dish — from noodles to ice cream sundaes. Lao Gan Ma was the original but it seems every kitchen, family, and chef has a unique chili crisp recipe.
The exact ingredients in each chili crisp can vary but for a condiment to be a crisp rather than a chili oil, it must have a ratio featuring more crispy bits than oil. Lao Gan Ma crisps up onion, chilis, and soybeans amongst other flavors, Momofuku Chili Crunch adds a mushroom powder to heighten umami, and Loud Grandma chili crisp contains CBD for added benefits.
Loud Grandma was originally named Loud Gan Ma, a play on words to indicate that it’s an homage to the famed chili crisp with a twist. Old friends Calvin Eng and Ben Gabriel started the company in a Brooklyn basement in 2018 and have since evolved into a collaboration with infused olive oil company Pot d’Huile. Loud Grandma sits at an intersection of the co-founders’ interests in food, design, and weed with eye-catching branding and a kitschy name. The real question is whether the product was worth it or just another hop-on to the CBD craze, so we tried a jar.
I’ll be honest, Loud Grandma is the first packaged chili crisp that I’ve tried. I’ve used chili oil at restaurants before, but I wasn’t wise enough to appreciate the bits. To properly review the flavor and mouthfeel, I researched what makes a proper chili oil. Turns out, the chef’s intention guides what we should expect, there’s no blueprint. Each recipe uses slightly different ingredients, but crispy chili bits are always the star.
Loud Grandma isn’t the spiciest chili crisp, but it does have a slight kick. The product description says I should feel the famous numbing effect from the Sichuan peppercorns but, unfortunately, I did not. I did, however, enjoy the flavor and the crunch. People with fillings should beware: I got some real hard chunks of pepper.
One of the driving forces in this review was to experience CBD in combination with chili peppers. Since chilis have a reputation for speeding up the metabolism, I thought it would be interesting to see if chilis could help the body absorb and metabolize the cannabinoids faster. Alas, since I’m not Ms. Frizzle, I couldn’t definitively say that my theory was correct. But based on my experiential knowledge, it did seem like a faster onset than just taking a pure full-spectrum CBD oil sublingually.
The full-spectrum CBD hemp extract in Loud Grandma comes from infused Pot d’Huile California olive oil that’s combined with grapeseed oil when processed into chili crisp. The other ingredients — red onion, chilies, soybeans, oils, herbs, and spices — reflect the OG Lao Gan Ma crisp that introduced the world to the firecracker condiment. Loud Grandma isn’t the only Pot d’Huile collab: the oil company has also partnered with Chef Miek Bagale on Hot Sloth CBD hot sauce. These spicy collaborations cater to the foodies and the potheads, making them a welcome addition to my stoned kitchen. I ate the entire jar of Loud Grandma and will probably purchase more, which is a high endorsement for the infused chili crisp.
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