Spice up Your Tin Pot Vanilla Bean the San Mateo Way

When Jenny Gao, the Los Angeles-based chef and founder of the Sichuan condiment company Fly By Jing, posted a photo on Twitter of Soft Serve dripping with chili oil, local San Mateo Chef J. Kenji López-Alt’s wheels started turning…

“Within the next hour, I was at a local Chinese supermarket, buying four bottles of Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp that I then dropped off at my restaurant, Wursthall, in San Mateo, Calif. By noon, my sous chef and I were cobbling together our own recipe for a spicy chile condiment, leaning heavily on one that the chef and writer Sohla El-Waylly published on Serious Eats earlier that year. Throughout the afternoon, we drizzled jarred sauces and iterations of our homemade version over spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream.

…By that evening, an early take on our spicy chile crisp sundae was on our secret, word-of-mouth, late-night menu. Things move fast in the age of social media.”

It’s time we all take vanilla to another level.

Up your Vanilla-game with Tin Pot, house-made spicy chili crisp, and Sichuan peanut streusel. 

Take home a pint of Tin Pot Creamery Vanilla Bean – A delectable and full-flavored vanilla ice cream that is anything but ordinary, made using vanilla beans and pure, double-fold vanilla extract and spice it up San Mateo-style with this recipe from Chef Kenji.

Sichuan Chile Oil

Start with 1/3 cup Sichuan chile flakes or if unavailable 4 dried chiles de árbol, stems and seeds removed and 2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed.

Combine oil, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cumin and fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until gently bubbling, then cook for 10 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain the barest of bubbling. Set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl with the chiles. Pour the hot oil through strainer over the chiles. Discard solids. Stir sugar, sesame seeds, salt and MSG, if using, into oil mixture until combined. Allow to cool, transfer to a sealed container, and let rest at room temperature overnight before using. You can store chile oil in a cool, dark pantry for a few weeks, or indefinitely in the refrigerator.

1/3 cup Sichuan chile flakes OR 4 dried chiles de árbol, stems and seeds removed/ 2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 cup neutral oil, such as canola, rice bran or soybean oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife, skins discarded
1 (1-inch) unpeeled knob fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a knife
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 whole star anise pod
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (black, white or a mix)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon MSG powder, such as Aji-no-moto or Ac’cent (optional)

Spicy chile crisp is a versatile condiment. Use it on noodles, over stir-fries, on eggs, with cold leftover meats, or in cold salads. (It’s especially good paired with yogurt and crisp, refreshing vegetables like cucumbers or raw snap peas.) Makes 1 1/4 cup/15 minutes.

For Sichuan Peanut  Struesel:
2 teaspoons whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons Sichuan or Korean chile flakes
1 whole star anise pod
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon/170 grams blanched, skinless peanuts
⅓ packed cup/85 grams light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons/55 grams all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons/85 grams softened unsalted butter

Prepare the peanut streusel: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat to 350 degrees. (If your oven has a convection setting, make sure it is off.)
Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind Sichuan peppercorns, chile flakes, star anise, cumin and fennel together into a fine powder.
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until peanuts are roughly chopped and a coarse meal-like texture is formed. (Alternatively, mix together with your fingers, lithely crushing the peanuts in a mortar and pestle or under a skillet before adding to other ingredients.)
Spread mixture over a parchment-lined sheet tray in little crumbles. Bake until deep golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, about 16 to 20 minutes. (The mixture will spread and flatten as it bakes.) As soon as the streusel is cool enough to handle, break it up into small chunks — it’s OK if they are a little uneven — then cool completely. Do not let the streusel cool completely before trying to break it! Once cooled, streusel can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for up to two weeks. This recipe makes about 3 cups.

J. Kenji López-Alt writes a monthly column for the Food section on cooking and science. He is the author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science,” the chief culinary consultant for the website Serious Eats and the chef and co-owner of the restaurant Wursthall in San Mateo, Calif.

Featuring best-in-class retailers such as Tin Pot Creamery, Blue Bottle Coffee, ROAM Artisan Burgers, Biograph and now Slices San Mateo, Bay Meadows’ Town Square is the ideal gathering place with more ground-floor retail, outdoor dining and pop-ups to come. Home to a stunning sculpture from internationally-renowned artist Jeppe Hein, the Town Square is the dynamic core of our Midurban village. It is the perfect place to relax outside for a beer or wine at Fieldwork Brewing Company’s Beer Garden after a day of shopping and entertainment at Hillsdale Shopping Center. Take a turn on the porch swings or challenge a friend to table-tennis in the outdoor ping-pong court. Join the Bay Meadows email list to stay on top of the latest.