Wait, whaaaaaat? Shake Shack and Fly by Jin are creating a chili-crisp forward menu? OMG sign me up. Wait, what? It's only going to be available in the UK? BOOOOO. Life isn't fair. Hrmph. Still, let's learn a little about the menu, in case you happen to be in the UK or will visit soon. Hypebeast explains:
Founded in 2018, Jing Gao created Fly By Jing to share the flavors of her hometown in Chengdu, China through condiments defined by deep nutritional richness accented by the spicy tingle of erjingtiao chilis and tribute peppers.
Marking Fly By Jing's launch in the U.K., the collaboration is led by the Chili Crisp Chicken, a crispy chicken breast glazed with spicy Sichuan chili crisp topped with pickled cucumber, shredded lettuce and spring onion mayo held between a toasted potato bun. Accompanying items include Chili Crisp Chicken Bites served with spring onion mayo and Chili Crisp Cheese Fries topped with Shack cheese sauce and spicy Sichuan chili crisp.
Well, I guess I'm gonna just have to create my own copycat dishes. But I pretty much eat chili crisp every day anyway, on crackers and rice and eggs and steamed veggies and noodles and more, so….
If you're not familiar with chili crisp, the recipes vary, but in general it's a condiment made with chiles, oil, garlic, and spices. According to Karen Yuan at Bon Appétit,
Chili crisp can feature so many ingredients—like crispy fried garlic, fennel seeds, scallions, and star anise—that add all sorts of flavors. But I've stripped down the crisp to its spicy, crunchy essentials. For me that's dried red chiles, roasted and salted soybeans or peanuts, and dried onion or shallot. With those three ingredients—plus vegetable oil, salt, and sugar—I get a crisp that's hot, salty, sweet, and, thanks to the soybeans or peanuts, full of texture. When I'm in the mood, I like to add Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, and sesame oil so the crisp is extra fragrant—but those are optional not elemental.
Chili crisp has been having a moment the last few years, as folks began discovering "the original" brand, Lao Gan Ma. As Cathy Erway of Taste Cooking explains:
Over the last few years, writers for national publications have been swooning over Lao Gan Ma and declaring they might die if they run out of the stuff. The wrestling legend and action-movie star John Cena has shared a Youtube video in which he professes his love for the sauce. Countless chefs have confessed to spooning the stuff on food after business hours, or formulating their own housemade iteration inspired by it.
Since the craze started, many new brands have become popular—there are dozens of chili crisps to choose from now, and every one I've tried has been delicious. I think my favorite is the Smoky Coffee Chili Oil from Hot Mama Salsa based in Portland, Oregon. If you're new to the scene and want to read about different brands before trying, here's a great overview describing of a bunch of them, separated into two categories – those that feature more oil, and those that feature more crisp. And here's another list of standout favorites; the author here includes categories like crunchiest, best sesame-forward crisp, and extra spicy.
And if you don't want to buy a jar, here's a great site describing why you should make it at home (spoiler alert: the reason is that store-bought crisp is often expensive, at around $15.00 a jar), and here's a great recipe!