Jenny Gao of Fly By Jing teaches us Dumpling Sauce
Jenny Gao is a chef, entrepreneur, and general badass spicestress extraordinaire. She founded Fly By Jing, a new condiment brand bringing highly-charged, 100% real Chinese flavors to a dish near you. Their Sichuan Chili Crisp will change your life forever.
We caught up with Jenny about the perfect dips for your dumplings and processed our diaspora feelings through meditations on deeply nostalgic flavors.
My name is Jenny, but my real name is Jing. I'm the founder of a company called Fly By Jing and we make all natural premium Chinese condiments and spices. I grew up moving around a lot, all over Europe, and kids found it hard to pronounce my name. I had to kind of come up with a coping mechanism and Jenny became that. Now in my adulthood, I'm trying to reconnect with my heritage, which is why I'm doing what I do and also why I named the brand Fly By Jing.
My earliest food memories were trips back to my hometown of Chengdu to visit my grandparents. Chengdu is the food capital of China, so everyone there is food-obsessed by default and has a lot of opinions about flavors and food. The culture is all about the appreciation and enjoyment of life, and food is such a central part of that. Because I grew up away from that, I only got glimpses of it when I went back to visit and didn’t identify with it that much.
After business school, a job in tech brought me to Asia. Being there as an adult was the first time that I realized how disconnected I had become from my cultural identity and heritage.
The food, and the memory of those flavors from my childhood was what drew me back to it. As I started digging deeper into the rich food culture when I lived in Beijing and Shanghai, I realized just how much complexity and depth there was that we in the West know so little about. I felt it was worth celebrating and sharing on a broader stage, which led me to writing about it at first, and eventually opening a restaurant in Shanghai that celebrated modern Chinese flavors in a sustainable and health-forward fast-casual format.
As I dug deeper into my roots, I found myself back in Chengdu, studying with some of the greatest chefs in Sichuan cuisine, and finding a purpose in sharing Sichuan’s incredible flavor profiles and ingredients, and making them accessible to people all over the world.
Authenticity is an interesting concept because we all have a unique experience of what that means to us. There is no universal authenticity, so we can only strive to remain authentic to our own experience.
When we prescribe labels like “authentic” on a cuisine, we're actually pigeonholing it, not allowing it or the people who make it to evolve. We’re effectively saying, You cannot be anything other than this, because this is how I want you to be.
With every cuisine, the only way that it can thrive is if it evolves. We must embrace that and allow people, whether it’s a grandmother in China or her granddaughter in America, to express and define their own experiences of that cuisine. At Fly By Jing, we like to say that our sauces are not “authentic”, but personal.
Speaking of authenticity — we were a bit pinched for time so for this recipe, we used store-bought freezer dumplings, but we created a sauce from scratch. Do what works for you.
Jenny’s (Second) Best Dumpling Sauce Ever
- 1 part soy sauce
- 1 part vinegar
- Sichuan Chili Crisp to taste
Dash of honey
- Stir to combine