Category: Southwest (Sichuan, Yunnan)

Zuzu’s Savory Sichuan Zongzi (粽子)

Five Generations of Zongzi In the national Chinese battle of sweet vs. savory 粽子 (zòngzi), my family’s heirloom Sichuan zongzi recipe straddles a different border of savory. It’s nothing extravagant—six ingredients including rice, salt and oil. (A far cry from the mouthwatering cured egg yolk, meat-stuffed, nut-filled, mushroom-frequenting zongzi beloved in some savory southern regions). But one bite and anyone could guess its origin: Besides unassuming red bean and a touch of wind-cured pork belly, the sole flavoring is freshly ground 花椒 (huājiāo), the mouth-numbing and citrusy “Sichuan pepper.” Growing up sprinkling...

Vegan mapo tofu

Vegan Mapo Tofu: Chengdu Inspired! (麻婆豆腐)

Meatless Mapo ft. Dried Flower Shiitake This one’s for the tofu-loving vegetarians and vegans out there! Mapo tofu is so beloved, it’s one of the few Sichuan dishes that make it directly into colloquial English without translation. So many regions have their own variations of the dish now too. It’s only natural that vegan mapo tofu has become popular on its own, so this recipe is for Chengdu-inspired mapo tofu with dried shiitake mushrooms. In Sichuan mapo tofu, ground beef (not pork!) is more a flavoring agent than the undiscerning...

Wood Ear Salad ft. Pickled Chili (Liangban Mu’er, 凉拌木耳)

Introducing Cloud Ear Fungus~~ If I ever make a Chinese dinner spread with more than 4-5 dishes, 凉拌木耳 (liángbàn mù’ěr) wood ear salad is probably on the table. It’s served at room temperature, meaning I don’t need to time the cooking and plating. It’s fast to prepare on its own, so I can even get away with it as an afterthought. And it relies almost completely on shelf-stable pantry ingredients, so I always have them on hand. As a side dish, wood ear salad is sufficiently different to complement anything...

Pressure Cooker Sichuan Rice-Steamed Pork Ribs (Fenzhengrou, 粉蒸肉)

Taste of Lunar New Year Across South-Central China, just about every province cooks up some version of 粉蒸肉 (fěnzhēngròu), rice-steamed pork. In fenzhengrou, a special toasted rice powder coats the marinated pork before steaming and soaks up all the juices during. Despite originating in Jiangxi, Sichuan-style fenzhengrou with its Pixian doubanjiang base is arguably the most popular version today. Case in point: The China Cuisine Association named fenzhengrou one of Chongqing’s top 10 famous dishes and China’s 340 regional classic dishes in September 2018. Fenzheng dishes encompass rice-steamed beef, pork belly...

white dish with stirfried cabbage piled high

Sichuan Hand-Torn Cabbage Stir-Fry (Shousi Baicai, 手撕白菜)

Cabbage and Huajiao, Happily Ever After This Sichuan Hand-Torn Cabbage Stir-Fry is a homestyle classic beloved in and out of Sichuan. It’s cheap, vegetarian, comes together in minutes and requires no special ingredients outside of a standard Chinese pantry. Plus, keep reading for an easy way to elevate this cabbage stir-fry into a Sichuan pepper (花椒, huājiāo) tasting experience! Cabbage gets a bad rap in the U.S., but Chinese people love cabbage. We even have an idiom extolling its virtues—百菜不如白菜 (bǎi cài bùrú báicài), meaning “a hundred vegetables are not...

Xiaoguo Mixian

No Sweet Sour: Yunnan Small Pot Rice Noodles (Xiaoguo Mixian, 小锅米线)

Yunnan Noodles, Far From Home Ask about the best-known Yunnan rice noodles across China, and many would nominate 过桥米线 (guòqiáo mǐxiàn), “crossing the bridge noodles.” However, for Yunnan locals, 小锅米线 (xiǎoguō mǐxiàn) or “small pot rice noodles” are no doubt the everyday staple. Xiaoguo mixian are hearty, down-to-earth, simple to prepare and available in almost every noodle shop.  Although xiaoguo mixian are a go-to breakfast for most people in Kunming, I prefer to eat it later as a comforting late-night meal. I learned to cook this dish from the noodle...

Sichuan Braised Chicken with Chestnut + Shiitake (Banli Shaoji, 板栗烧鸡)

Cooking With Pixian Doubanjiang: Braised Chicken Sichuan braised chicken with chestnut and shiitake (板栗烧鸡, bǎnlì shāojī) in a dutch oven requires minimal babysitting for maximum flavor. Ma’s side of the family prepares shaoji with whole chicken and traditional taro obbligato, but this recipe combines bone-in chicken legs, roasted chestnuts and dried shiitake with the usual Pixian hongyou douban for everyday shaoji (within the hour!). The fact that we now call this dish “everyday” says it all. One godless fall day in her early youth, Mala Mama and her two older...

Sichuan cold rabbit

Cooking with Pixian Doubanjiang: Erjie Tuding (二姐兔丁) Second Sister Rabbit Cubes

A Chengdu Hawker Original Chengdu’s famous Erjie Tuding is based off a Sichuan 凉拌 (liángbàn)/cold-dressed dish traditionally eaten in the fall. It belongs to our reader-favorite Cooking with Pixian Doubanjiang recipe series, which highlights Sichuan doubanjiang cooking methods that are less well-known than classics like Mapo Doufu and Twice-Cooked Pork. If you’ve never thought of using doubanjiang in a cold dish, this is your sign!  There are several variations of Sichuan’s cold-dressed rabbit (凉拌兔丁, liángbàn tùdīng; also 麻辣兔丁, málà tùdīng), but the most famous is Chengdu’s 二姐兔丁 (èrjiě tùdīng), “Second Sister Rabbit Cubes.”...

Sichuan Hot and Sour Shredded Potato (Suanla Tudousi, 酸辣土豆丝)

Weeknight Shredded Potato There comes a time in every potato’s life when it graduates out of the larder to emerge peeled, quartered, cubed, sliced, hasselbacked, mashed, puréed, you name it. In China, you’ll also find Sichuan Hot and Sour Shredded Potato (酸辣土豆丝, suānlà tǔdòusī), a stir-fry mainstay in restaurants and homes. Though shredding is a common Chinese potato treatment, it remains a niche cut in the U.S., favored only for its breakfast potential. Yes, suanla tudousi’s closest living ‘Murican relative is the griddle-fried shredded potato hash brown at your favorite...

Sichuan’s Pickled Chili Crisp (Zhalajiao, 渣辣椒)

      Taste of the Sichuan Countryside This recipe for 渣辣椒 (zhālàjiāo), or 渣海椒 (zhāhǎijiāo) in some areas, was a long time coming to our family dining table here in the United States. An all-purpose seasoning of fermented chili in cornmeal, zhalajiao (or “pickled chili crisp” as I’m calling it in English) can be stir-fried or steamed with any dish—and when pan-fried alone, the crispy accompaniment dresses up everything from plain white rice to 回锅肉 (huíguōròu). Mala Mama last tasted this traditional Sichuan dish in 1988, when my dad’s...

Sichuan pao cai naturally fermented pickles

Sichuan Lacto-Fermented Pickles (Paocai, 泡菜): Starting Your First Batch

Part 1: Making Pickles the Sichuan Way This paocai guide, originally published in September 2017, was updated in August 2021 with new photos and more guidance as we launched the mouth-blown Chinese pickle jar pictured above at The Mala Market. We continued to perfect the recipe and method and revised it again in September 2023 when we debuted the larger, ceramic paocai jars we had custom made in China.  This is part one of our guide to making pickles the Sichuan way, and it focuses on starting your first batch....

Hongyou chaoshou

Sichuan Chili Oil Wontons (Hongyou Chaoshou, 红油抄手)

A Taste of Childhood These Sichuan Chili Oil Wontons (红油抄手, hóngyóu chāoshǒu) take us back to slurping down a bowl of chaoshou at our fave Chongzhou noodle shop. For authentic texture and hometown flavor, traditional technique is everything. Whether you know them as everyday 馄饨 (húntún), Sichuan 抄手 (chāoshǒu), or Cantonese-derived wontons, these soup-friendly meat parcels are a hole-in-the-wall mainstay. Unlike 饺子 (jiǎozi) or 水饺 (shuǐjiǎo), aka boiled dumplings, chaoshou are served “wet” in bowls of broth or, in this case, hongyou dressing. Moreover, the delicate, crossed wrappers trap sauce by...