The Best Asian Hot Sauces – Lao Gan Ma

When it comes to Asian hot sauce, you probably think Sriracha.  It’s the most common brand in US supermarkets and it does the job when you want to add bite to your bites.  But every condiment comes in many shapes, sizes and tastes and there are some fine alternatives to Sriracha if you look hard enough.  For me, 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.  It’s an outstanding hot sauce.
I first experienced Lao Gan Ma in Tina’s Long Island home the day after Thanksgiving.  Turkey is a very dry bird to begin with and leftover turkey breast tastes just a little bit better than unsalted cardboard.  Tina must have seen my face as I tried to swallow each bite of this foul fowl.  She handed me a jar of red sauce and said, “Here, add this to your turkey.”  Tina is a first-generation Taiwanese whose parents immigrated from Szechuan, China, which means she grew up eating spicy food and lots of hot sauce.  I knew instantly that her sauce would be a fine addition to my dry turkey.  Indeed, all it took was half a teaspoon of Lao Gan Ma and in no time I had miraculously cleaned my plate.  Wanting more of her hot sauce, I asked Tina for more of her turkey.  She smiled and said, “I know you don’t like the turkey.  Do you want some Taiwanese egg-pancakes instead?  You can add the hot sauce on the pancakes too.”  I was nodding my head before she finished the sentence.

Lao Gan Ma has a long history and the company, which started as a one-woman business, has been perfecting this hot sauce for eighty years.  Already a very popular brand in China, the Chinese community in the US started to discover its appeal just a few years ago.  This unique sauce includes crisp red chilies, garlic, onions, soybeans, canola oil, tree nuts and, its most distinguishing ingredient, peanuts.  I use Lao Gan Ma as a both a dipping sauce and a cooking sauce, adding it to flavor many meals: dumplings, fried rice, noodles, hot pot, fried eggs and stir fries.  And on nights when I’m too tired to cook and want something quick and tasty, I simply boil some noodles, mix them with Lao Gan Ma, some light soy sauce, a half-teaspoon of black vinegar and two drops of sesame oil.  It’s delicious.

26 thoughts on “The Best Asian Hot Sauces – Lao Gan Ma

  1. Frida Lee Post author

    Hi 史先生,

    Thanks for your comment. “Rooster Sauce” is what we call Sriracha in the US. Give La Ga Ma Hot sauce a try and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

  2. 史先生

    Believe it or not, Sriracha “Rooster Sauce” is made in the US. We have to look hard for it in Singapore. Defintely will will try La Ga Ma.

  3. Lee (Shui-Shui Shuiguo)

    Hi Frida,

    Thanks for the tip. Here’s an interesting food factoid. The red chili pepper, one of the defining spices of Szechuanese cuisine, is actually a new world food which was only introduced to China in the 18th century. It originated in Central America and was introduced by traders travelling from the West.

    I love your blog and look forward to reading more!


  4. Hervé


    Salut Frida!
    Following the advice of some Chinese friends, I tried the laoganma two months ago and I have to say that it has joined the tabasco in the list of my favorite sauces.I like to cook my noodles and my salads with it and I start to cook Chinese dishes using Chinese sesame oil as well, it’s better for health. I am always eager for advice on Chinese food, thank you for these explanations, I like to know more about the things I love! 下次再見

  5. Frida Lee Post author

    Dear 梅艾偉,
    Thank you for your comment. You were the first one I know of who visited my website from France. Can you let me know how you found my blog? I never tried the hot sauce with salad, but I’d like to give it a try soon. Thanks for reading and I’ll keep on writing on Asian food. 下次見!

  6. 梅艾偉

    Salut Frida!

    I’ am honored to be the first person you know to visit your blog from France, I found your blog simply through Google search engine by typing laoganma, I was looking for informations and recipes on this delicious exotic sauce and also about haidai/海帶 seaweeds. I would like to cook them with laoganma but I’m not sure of the result…. any advice? seaweed salads with laoganma, maybe a good idea? thank you for sharing your taste of good things. Have a nice day! 下次見!

  7. Frida Lee Post author

    You can buy Laoganma in France? Is it sold in Chinatown in Paris? This is too weird that you asked me about seaweed because I just had spicy seaweed for dinner tonight! But I got it from a Chinese restaurant. Okay, I’ll look for a Chinese seaweed recipe and get back to you.

  8. 梅艾偉

    Great! finally the idea of cooking seaweeds with Laoganma(or any other Chinese spicy sauce) was good! Yes I can buy Laoganma in “Chinatown” in Paris and many other Asian food, Paris such as New York is a global city now, so no problem to find anything I want. I guess that as you are Taïwanese you must know a lot about all kind of Chinese cuisine! I would prefer to have your grandma seaweed recipe, anyway all good spicy seaweed recipes are welcome! thank you very much!

  9. Frida Lee Post author

    I found a few Chinese seaweed recipes and liked two of them. One uses all fresh ingredients (including red chilli pepper) but takes longer to make. The other one you can use ready-made hot sauce but it doesn’t look as yummy as the first one. Let me know which one you prefer and I’ll translate the recipe from Chinese to English for you.

  10. 梅艾偉

    the first one looks better to me, is it a Taïwanese recipe? no problem if it takes long time to make, the most important is the result. By the way, I would like to know the names of these two recipes and also which kind of seaweeds I need to get, my closet is full of different kind of seaweed’s bags, mostly haidai, and as soon as I will get your response I will buy the other ingredients in my favorite Chinese shop. Thank you very much again!

  11. 梅艾偉

    Salut Frida!
    I finally managed to do and enjoy the spicy seaweed recipe using laoganma. After a first failure, I managed to find the right mix of ingredients, the second attempt was good. This recipe, however, must be served as a first course and be followed by a dish more digestible and sweet. Thank you very much again! Have a nice day!

  12. Frida Lee Post author

    Hi Luker,

    Please see the recipe below:

    fresh seaweed, garlic, ginger, white vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, white sesame seeds,
    red chili pepper, chili oil (or replace Laogama with the last two ingredients)

    1. wash and finely slice fresh seaweed
    2. boil water, add 2 teaspoons of any white vinegar once the water is boiling
    3. add seaweed to boiling water and cook for 15-20 minutes
    4. roast sesame seeds in a saute pan and put aside
    5. remove seaweed from hot water and soak it in ice water to chill
    6. finely chop red chili pepper, garlic, ginger
    7. add oil to a pan and cook the above items with small fire
    8. once you smell the aroma, turn the gas off
    9. add soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, red chili oil to the pan
    10. remove the seaweed from ice water and put it into a bowl
    11. mix the cold seaweed and sauce
    12. add white sesame seeds on top

    Tips from Frida:
    1. I think it will taste better if you marinate the seaweed with the sauce for a couple of hours or even over night.

    2. I usually roast a small jar of white sesame seeds and add them to salad or on top of pan fried dumplings.

  13. Youhao Wang

    Hello Frida,

    Thank you! Your tip reminded me when I saw it about my hometown. Glad to meet you! I am from mainland.

    Best regards,
    Youhao Wang

  14. sofy

    Don’t bother to find any in Malaysia cos’ I have been searching high and low in all supermarkets and hypermarkets and in vain. Unless you buy on line

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