Tao Huabi has addressed the famous saying in the south-western Chinese province of Guizhou: “Not three feet of flat land, not three days without rain, not a family with three silver coins.”
She is known as the mastermind behind Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chilli Crisp, which is a hot, crunchy sauce of chopped chillies that are fried to a red so dark it is almost black. It is a condiment that can be found almost everywhere and is enjoyed by everyone.
The packaging comes in a jar and the brand is called Lao Gan Ma which means “old godmother” and everyone who picks a jar up must face the stern look of a short-haired woman.
This product is not only limited in China but nowadays it has been recognised worldwide and can be found in either cupboard or fridges of every home.
Tao Huabi is actually so well-liked that it is worth much more than three silver coins. According to Forbes China, she is worth $1.05 billion.
Tao was born in the year 1947 in a village of mountainous Guizhou, since her family was poor, she was not given a chance to education.
Right after her husband’s demise, she moved to the city of Guiyang and started selling noodles with her self-made sauce as the condiment.
Over time, she managed to open a restaurant called Economical Restaurant in the 1990s where she provided her sauce for free to truck drivers to Guiyang, for them to spread the news.
Finally, in 1996, she managed to set up a factory and developed Lao Gan Ma Special Flavour Foodstuffs Company.
Chinese food history
A professor in China named Miranda Brown, from the University of Michigan, who is writing a book on Chinese food’s history stated that this product is very well accepted in China due to its originality.
Chinese consumers prefer food that perfectly captures local cuisines and uses ingredients that are cultivated in those regions’ soil.
She feels that Tao’s good looks and godmotherly demeanor also sate her longing for socialist China and a “simpler time.”
Lao Gan Ma popularity
Chili crisp is known to be the ketchup to those in China. The only difference is that they add ice cream to the list.
Lao Gan Ma is also becoming more and more famous abroad, particularly in the US, where a number of boutique variations have emerged lately.
These variations include Fly By Jing and Momofuku chilli crunch, both of which forego MSG in favour of natural flavours.
Research on Lao Gan Ma as a condiment
According to a research report on the condiment written by two professors at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, Tao Huabi, the woman whose face inspired a billion mouthfuls, is to blame for its popularity abroad.
The statement said that “Lao Gan Ma purposefully depicts an extraordinary, ordinary-appearing, and elderly Chinese woman on its product box, which in turn piques the strong curiosity of overseas buyers.”
In 2021, during the pandemic lockdowns in the UK, people were looking for a way to spice up their home-cooked meals. According to online store Sous Chef, Lao Gan Ma sales increased by 1,900%.
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