Chengdu Challenge #4: Lucky in Fish, Unlucky in Friendship “I have a weird request for you,” I said to Hobo Mike, a commercial fisherman and the head fishmonger at my local Whole Foods. “I need a giant fish head. No body. Just head.” “That’s not weird,” he replied. “Lots of people ask me for fish heads. I’ll put you on the waiting list.” “Cool,” I said. “But in that case, I’d like to place an order, because I don’t want just any old little snapper or salmon head. I need...
We are Taylor and Fongchong, and The Mala Market Blog is where we share our adventures in cooking Sichuan food. Our blog started in 2014 and eventually grew to include The Mala Market, America’s source for premium Sichuan ingredients.
Taylor is CEO, importer, cook and writer, and Fongchong is spice packager, translator and chief taster. One of us joined a new family in America at age 11 and refused to eat anything but real Chinese food, and the other one had to learn in a hurry how to cook it for her.
We’ve discovered through the years that the secret to making food that tastes like it would in China is using the same ingredients that are used in China. The Mala Market is designed to help American cooks do just that, providing premium and hard-to-find Sichuan spices and sauces as well as Chinese pantry collections.
Sichuan málà—numbing and spicy—is our shared, mother-daughter obsession, though, as in Sichuan itself, you’ll find plenty of mild recipes on our blog and non-spicy Chinese products in our shop.
We hope you’ll find both the ingredients and instruction helpful, and, as always, we look forward to hearing from you in the blog comments, on social media or via email through the little envelope icon on the main Mala Market page.
Read about sourcing premium Sichuan pepper and about the tortured path of Sichuan’s defining spice from Chinese farm to America table over the past 50 years in an article I wrote for the award-winning Roads & Kingdoms and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
“Sichuan pepper was banned outright for 37 years, then forced to endure unnecessary heat treatment for a dozen more—making it difficult for kung pao chicken, mapo doufu, and other Sichuan classics to wield their full numbing power for nearly 50 years in the U.S. And this whole time, there was ‘negligible risk’?”