The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking Blog

sichuan chili oil liangmian in white porcelain dish with black backdrop

Ma’s Sichuan Liangmian (四川凉面) Spicy Cold Noodles

Ma’s Signature Potluck Dish If there’s one dish my mother is known for at potlucks, it’s spicy Sichuan 凉面 (liángmiàn), “cold noodles” in translation. The nature of this beloved 小吃 (xiǎochī) snack in Sichuan is such that everyone knows the dish on sight—and taste. Chewy but not sticky, springy and not slick, sour and spicy and cooling and fragrant all at once, a simple bowl of Sichuan liangmian makes my mouth water just thinking about it. If you host often, bringing nothing but cold noodles as your contribution to a...

How to Grind Sichuan Pepper (Huajiao, 花椒)

No Mala Without Huajiao~~ Many recipes on this blog include ground 花椒 (huājiāo), Sichuan pepper, but the steps are so simple we’ve always included how to grind Sichuan pepper as a recipe note. Yet it’s worth taking extra care to get the most of our premium, single-origin Sichuan pepper offerings—from the gorgeous six-petaled, flower-shape “Da Hong Pao” to Hanyuan’s supremely potent and citrusy “Qingxi Gong Jiao,” famously collected by the emperor as tribute. When you’re using just-harvested huajiao from the tiny Sichuan village that is world capital of huajiao quality—with...

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 cured pork, the sole flavoring is freshly ground 花椒 (huājiāo), the mouth-numbing and citrusy “Sichuan pepper.” Growing up sprinkling huajiao...

Changzhou’s Small Foot Zongzi (Xiaojiao Zongzi, 小脚粽子)

Duanwu Jie with a Taste of Jiangnan~~ This Duanwu Jie, we are introducing two special zongzi stories: Changzhou’s small foot zongzi and Sichuan’s savory zongzi. You may sense a theme in our blog with this entry, because after starting it as a mother-daughter effort in 2014, we brought on Kathy Yuan and Mala Mama to contribute their family recipes from Sichuan in 2021 and are now welcoming Zoe Yang and her mom, Iris Zhao, to share their stories and recipes from Jiangnan—the area south of the Yangtze River, including Shanghai...

Danjiao (蛋饺) Egg Dumplings ft. Pork and Ramps

Taste of Jiangnan: Egg-Skin Dumplings~~ 蛋饺 (dànjiǎo), or egg dumplings, have long been a mainstay of Chinese New Year banquets across the southeastern regions of China. Elders will tell you it’s because danjiao look like lucky gold ingots/”sycees”(金元宝, jīn yuánbǎo). I think the practical reason is that they demand so much attention and time! See, to make danjiao, you basically have to make a tiny omelet in a ladle, lay a tiny quenelle of pork filling in the middle, and then oh-so-gently fold one edge of the omelet over the...

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

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...

A white bowl of dunjitang served with wontons and mushrooms and greens

Clarified Old Hen Soup (Dunjitang, 炖鸡汤)

All-Purpose Golden Broth for Soup, Noodles, Chaoshou and More~~ Documenting my mother’s recipe for 炖鸡汤 (dùnjītāng), stewed chicken soup, made me wonder what you can tell about someone from how they process a whole bird. It all starts with deducing a person’s qualities from the kind of chicken immediately at stake, a brand of kitchen table checkers I cherish. Someone who already had what they needed in the freezer is likely not just a regular cook, for example, but also a confident one—they don’t need to know the fate of...

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...

Steak Chow Fun

Cantonese Steak Chow Fun (Ft. Dried Ho Fun Noodles)

Chow Fun Any Place, Any Time~~ The most important thing to know about this recipe is that unlike all other recipes for Cantonese beef chow fun, this one does not require you to make or find freshly steamed rice noodles. Instead it shows you how to make do with dried rice noodles. And in fact, more than make do, make something genuinely great. But first, a bit of why I, who cook almost exclusively Sichuan food for my spicy girl, am making Cantonese noodles. Spicy Sichuan dishes are Fongchong’s favorite,...

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...