“I just loved cooking with my mom growing up, talking food, recipes, playing around with things,” says Justin Eli, founder of Mom’s Mala, a line of chili condiments inspired by his mother’s punchy, aromatic Sichuan chili oil.

“When I last saw my mom, we tested her fried chicken vs. my new version of fried chicken. We’ll be like, ‘Hmmm I don't know mine’s better,' or, ‘Maybe we should combine these parts.’ We really just love food and that was always a bond that made us closer.”

Since 2018, Eli has been churning out a complex Mild Sichuan Chili Sauce and Spicy Sichuan Chili Sauce—building off the recipe his mother developed.

“My mom had something like four brothers and four sisters and she would cook for her family. For a little while, she was a chef for a restaurant,” he says. “For her, cooking was a constant evolution of trying and tweaking... There’s a real love that we put into every jar that goes out.”

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Photos: Courtesy of Richard Luu and Brianna Coleman