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Chinese Cinderella Story: The Story Behind Lao Gan Ma Chili Sauce Posted by on Apr 1, 2019 in food

老干妈 (lǎo gàn mā) is a famous Chinese chili sauce. It is one of the most favored chili sauces in China, a must-have (必备bì bèi) in every house.

Image via Pixabay

In recent years, it has seen growing popularity overseas, too. New York Magazine ranked the spicy sauce in first place. On the Facebook page of The Lao Gan Ma Appreciation Society fans from all over the world share their craving for the crunchy sauce. The brand logo was even plastered on hoodies selling for 120 US dollars at the Opening Ceremony store in New York City.

  • 几乎家家都有辣椒酱,其中最出名的就是老干妈辣椒酱了。

Jī hū jiā jiā dōu yǒu là jiāo jiàng, qí zhōng zuì chū míng de jiù shì Lǎo Gàn Mā là jiāo

jiàng le.

Almost every family has chili sauce, the best known among them is Lao Gan Ma chili


  • 老干妈是居家必备。

Lǎo gàn mā shì jūjiā bì bèi.

Lao Gan Ma it’s a must have in every house.

The Lao Gan Ma factory was established (成立 chéng lì) in 1996 in Guizhou province. It is the largest producer (生产 shēng chǎn) and seller (销售 xiāo shòu) of pepper products in China. Its output value is estimated at billions of RMB every year.

The famous brand of chili sauce is known for its red label and a small portrait of a stern-faced Chinese woman. The woman is Tao Huabi (陶华碧), the developer and founder (创始人 chuàng shǐ rén) of the popular sauce. Her story is incredible. Tao, known as曾经中国最火辣的女人 (céng jīng zhōng guó zuì huǒ là de nǚ rén, the spiciest woman of China) over Chinese social media, was born in 1947, in a remote mountain village in Guizhou Province. Tao was born into a poor (贫穷 pín qióng) family. She never went to school or learned how to read and write. At the age of 20, she got married. But in a few years, her husband had died, and Tao was left alone with two young children.

  • 1947年,陶华碧出生于贵州省。

1947 nián, Táo Huábì chū shēng yú guì zhōu shěng.

In 1947, Tao Huabi was born in Guizhou Province.

  • 20岁时,她结婚了;但没过几年,丈夫就病逝了。

20 suì shí, tā jié hūn le; dàn méi guò jǐ nián, zhàng fū jiù bìng shì le.

At the age of 20, she got married; but in a few years her husband died of illness.

To make a living she became a street vendor and set up a stall (地摊 dì tān). Later on, she opened a small noodles restaurant (餐厅 cān tīng) and served her noodles with homemade spicy sauce. Many enjoyed her cold noodles, and the business was thriving (兴隆 xīng lóng). But one day Tao didn’t feel well, and didn’t go to the market to buy peppers (辣椒 là jiāo). When customers came in and heard there was no spicy sauce, they left without eating. Tao realized the importance of the sauce, and over the years improved its taste and texture.

She kept cooking noodles, but also sold jars of her sauce separately. Gradually, her noodles business tapered off, while her sauce selling blew up. When Tao learned that other noodles shops in the neighborhood were all doing good business by using her home-made sauce, she realized the potential (潜力 qiánlì) of her product (制品 zhì pǐn). From the next day on, she stopped selling her sauce to go.

In 1996, at the age of 49, Tao closed the restaurant, rented a place, recruited forty workers, and opened a factory to produce the Lao Gan Ma (which literally means old godmother) Chili Sauce. The popularity soared, business prospered, and Lao Gan Ma became a point of Guizhou pride. Nowadays, the food factory employs more than 4,000 workers, and Tao herself made it to the 2015 Forbes list of China’s Billionaires.

In an interview from last year, Tao shared some tips: “实实在在地做人,实实在在地做生意, 把你的产品做好” (shí shí zài zài dì zuò rén, shí shí zài zài dì zuò shēng yì, bǎ nǐ de chǎn pǐn zuò hǎo, Be an honest person, conduct your business honestly, create a good product).

 Text vocabulary

辣椒酱 là jiāo jiàng = chili sauce

必备 bì bèi = must-have

成立 chéng lì = to establish

生产 shēng chǎn = to produce

销售 xiāo shòu = to sell

创始人 chuàng shǐ rén = founder

贫穷 pín qióng = poor

地摊 dì tān = stall

餐厅 cān tīng = restaurant

兴隆 xīng lóng = thriving

辣椒 là jiāo = pepper

潜力 qiánlì = potential

制品 zhì pǐn = product




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