The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking Blog

OMG, We’re a Finalist!: Please Vote for Us in Saveur Blog Awards

One More Vote! Thanks so much to all of you who made time to nominate us for the Saveur Blog Awards 2015. Based on your nominations and the editors’ judgement, The Mala Project is one of six finalists in the BEST NEW VOICE category. Saveur is the preeminent magazine covering international cuisines, and I am thrilled and honored to be included by them in a field narrowed down from 50,000 submissions. The exposure from being a finalist will help tremendously in spreading the word about The Mala Project, but of course it wouldn’t...

Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans (Ganbian Sijidou, 干煸四季豆)

Chengdu Challenge #16: Frying, Old-School vs. New Yes, I know it seems wrong to deep-fry green vegetables, but oh, it tastes so right. 干煸四季豆 (gānbiān sìjìdòu) actually means dry-fried green beans, but almost everyone nowadays quickly deep-fries them. That’s how the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine teaches the dish, and that’s how I’ve always done it. But when I was researching the dish, I found that the recipe for ganbian sijidou in Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook calls for dry-frying the green beans the old-school way, for more than two hours,...

Chengdu Zhongshuijiao (钟水饺) Concocted Soy/Red Oil Dumpling

Chengdu Challenge #15: It’s All About the (Zhong) Sauce If you’ve ever had 钟水饺 (zhōngshuǐjiǎo) dumplings in red oil at a real Sichuan restaurant then you know it’s all about the sauce. While every Chinese cuisine can claim a wonton, jaozi or siumai of its own, only Sichuan floats its famous zhongshuijiao in a sweet-hot special sauce. As such, it kind of blows all other dumplings out of the water. It’s hard to guess exactly what’s in that special sauce, besides chili oil, but you know it when you taste it. You also...

Roasted Potatoes in Chinese Black Bean Sauce

Food52 Chili Oil I promise this is my last post about chili oil for the foreseeable future, but I had to share this one because I’m so happy that it’s on Food52, the absolute best food site/blog/community for recipes. My Chili Oil #3 features preserved black beans and crispy shallots. The preserved black soybeans (douchi) make it particularly rich and intense. They make a statement. But even so, this oil has multiple uses—as a stir-fry sauce for clams (or chicken) with black beans; mixed with soy sauce as a noodle...

Please Nominate The Mala Project

Saveur magazine is conducting its annual search for the best food blogs. I wouldn’t mind an award, but what I really want is more people who love Sichuan food to know about The Mala Project (now The Mala Market Blog). It’s very hard for a new blogger to get the word out beyond her (and her friends’ and relatives’) circles. If you like The Mala Project, we Spicy Girls would be so appreciative if you could take one minute to nominate it for Saveur’s Blog Awards 2015, right here. Preferably in the...

Making Hongyou #2: Crispy Shallot Chili Oil

Mala Sweet Hot My pursuit of the perfect chili oil leads me to the conclusion that there is not just one. I like a pure, chili-flavored chili oil for most cooking, but after consuming so much Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp and similarly fancy artisan chili oils I  bought from a street  vendor in Sichuan, I’ve decided I need to up my game with homemade chili oils. So here I give you Crispy Shallot Chili Oil. It packs a ton of flavor, but still not so much that it can’t be...

Cumin Lamb

Xinjiang Cumin Lamb (Ziran Yangrou, 孜然羊肉)

  Chengdu Challenge #14: The Mystery of ‘Sichuan Cumin Lamb’ Happy Year of the Sheep! No one in my family is a sheep, so this Chinese New Year just makes me think of food, and, more precisely, of lamb. It also gives me the perfect excuse to try to solve one of the biggest mysteries about Sichuan restaurants in America: Why do they always feature cumin lamb? Cumin lamb is not a Sichuan dish. Traditional Sichuan restaurants in Sichuan don’t serve lamb, and they rarely use cumin. And you won’t find a recipe for cumin lamb in any...

Meet Laoganma, “The Godmother”: China’s Best Chili Oils + Sauces

Godmother to the Rescue Eleven-year-old Fongchong had been in the United States for a week in February 2011 and had found almost nothing she liked about it. Everything was foreign and strange in the extreme—the language, the food, her house, her parents. Now she was having dinner with people who looked like her and talked like her, but still it was weird. The food these college girls had made for her was familiar, at least—sweet-and-sour ribs, red-braised pork—and somewhat comforting, but Fongchong remained quiet and standoffish, unsure about everything, her perpetual...

Kung Pao Lotus Root (Gongbao Oupian, 宫保藕片)

Chengdu Challenge #13: The Unbearable Easiness of Real Kung Pao Everybody knows kung pao chicken—called 宫保鸡丁 (gōngbǎo jīdīng) in China—but did you know that you can kung pao other foods as well? My personal favorite vegetable given the gongbao treatment is lotus root, a mild, crunchy, stunningly beautiful vehicle for the mala-meets-sweet-and-sour sauce adorned with home-fried peanuts. (Now, admittedly, fresh lotus root is somewhat difficult to find in the U.S. outside Asian markets, so feel free to substitute potatoes for an equally delicious if less photogenic dish using the exact same...

Shui Zhu Beef

Sichuan Water-Boiled Beef (Shuizhu Niurou, 水煮牛肉)

Chengdu Challenge #12: A Sichuan Outlaw 水煮 (shuǐzhǔ), or “water-boiled” dishes, may be Sichuan’s most notorious food—feared and loved in equal measure. Shuizhu’s reputation as a dish for the daring precedes it. But those brave enough to dip into its sea of málà—chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorn—to fish out a piece of buttery soft beef (or pork, or fish) are rewarded with the realization that shuizhu is not nearly as lethal as its reputation. It was a shocking sight the first time I saw Chef Qing Qing make 水煮牛肉 (shuǐzhǔ niúròu),...

Dry-Braised Shrimp ft. Crispy Pork (Ganshaoxia, 干烧虾)

Chengdu Challenge #11:  Unusual Juxtapositions Bring Unusual Compliments In America, everything’s better with bacon on it. In Sichuan, everything’s better with browned pork bits. You might think, as I did, that big fresh shrimp don’t need the added attraction of a pork topping. But you’d be wrong, as I was. This is a fantastic combination in 干烧虾 (gānshāoxiā) dry-braised shrimp, bumped up by earthy-salty yacai (pickled mustard greens) and pickled hot chili peppers. It’s really like two dishes in one. First, you get your hands in there to remove the...

Making Lajiaojiang (Hot Pickled Chili Sauce)

Perfect Pickled Pepper Sauce My 15-year-old daughter is a chili fiend. Just like her mom. Also just like me, in U.S. restaurants she bypasses the sriracha and goes straight for the sambal oelek. Made by the same folks (California’s Huy Fong Foods) that make Thai-style Rooster sriracha—America’s favorite Asian hot sauce—their Indonesian-style sambal is a thicker, purer chili experience. It is nothing but chili, salt and vinegar (plus preservatives and a thickener) and as such is close in taste to Sichuan’s pickled peppers, paolajiao, and a better match for Chinese food than...