For fans of spicy foods, the last few years have been dominated by one condiment that's achieved sudden, major popularity in the U.S. — chili crisp. It's a blend of chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, and other spices and aromatics like garlic and scallion, which maintains an impressive crunch despite being soaked in chili oil. If you've never had it, that description might not sound like much. But if you have, you get it: the well-rounded blend of savory, acidic, bold, and spicy flavors with a perfectly crunchy texture improves basically any dish to which it's added.
Now that Westerners have finally caught on to the appeal of chili crisp (variations of which have existed in China for centuries), you can find a plethora of different brands selling their takes on the irresistibly delicious topping. Not all of those come with clear instructions on how to store it once you've opened the jar, but for best results, experts widely recommend refrigeration.
Even though some brands of chili crisp are shelf-stable, proper storage is the best way to preserve the intense heat and diversity of flavors, not to mention the obsession-worthy crunch. Your fridge is the perfect dark, cool environment to keep it safe from changes in light and temperature that might degrade its quality over time. So even if the jar doesn't tell you to, it's a good idea to refrigerate after opening.
A Centuries-Old Trend
Chili crisp, or infused oil-based condiments in general, have been around in China in one form or another for hundreds of years, primarily as the kind of thing professional and home chefs alike would make themselves, in-house. The first commercially produced chili crisp didn't hit shelves until 1997, when Lao Gan Ma, owner of a noodle shop in Guizhou, southern China, saw customers' enthusiasm for her house chili crisp and decided to start selling it by the jar.
There are almost infinite ways to use chili crisp. It adds some numbing heat and a blast of flavor to anything it graces, and die-hard fans will tell you to put it on virtually everything. Naturally, it's a perfect accompaniment to all sorts of Chinese dishes, but it would be a mistake to limit chili crunch to the most obvious uses. You can use it to fry eggs, to add some zing to wholesome comfort dishes like mac and cheese or baked potatoes, or even atop ice cream or mixed into chocolate cake for an unbelievable contrast of flavors and textures.
Experiment away, but take care to keep your chili crisp bright and delicious by storing it in the fridge between each use. (Although, don't be surprised if a jar doesn't last you very long — it's pretty hard to resist!)
Keep It Clean
As with any food or drink that you're trying to preserve, enemy number one is open air. Oxygenation can tamp down the flavor and crunchiness, and leaving a jar or bottle open gives bacteria the opportunity to get inside and multiply, so sealing the container tightly between uses is crucial. And, obvious as this may seem, sticking an unclean utensil in the jar can also introduce bacteria. If a spoon has been used for anything but chili crisp since it was last washed, it's going to transfer some of that bacteria to the jar.
Spoilage isn't really a concern here. It's not particularly likely (though it is possible) for chili crisp to go bad and actually become unsafe to eat. This is believed to be, in part, due to the natural antimicrobial properties of chili. The issue at hand is just preserving the condiment's quality, so that the signature crunch and savory bouquet of tastes don't weaken significantly before you finish the jar. Chili crisp can easily run over $10 for a small jar, so it's worth keeping tightly sealed and in the fridge to ensure that it keeps tasting incredible.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.