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 old-school diner. (Not to be confused with the deep-fried, grated-and-battered hash brown of McDonald’s breakfast glory.) Where hash browns hold down runny egg yolks and greasy bacon, shredded tudousi backs both dry-braised and saucy dishes. It complements meat, seafood, veggies and whole hosts of everyday fare not often chronicled in the annals of restaurant history. But counter to a fried potato’s mushy inside and crispy outside, suanla tudousi is soft around the edges and crisp at heart.
Needless to say, we’ve eaten a lot of this Sichuan shredded potato dish over the years. The “hot and sour” suanla flavor is subtle, never overpowering, and a perfect use of our Sichuan pepper and dried chilies.
Chef Wang Gang’s instructional video above is in Mandarin but features English closed captioning.
The traditional Chinese way of shredding potatoes is even more efficient (and way less scary) than using a mandoline. It requires a straight-edge vegetable cleaver known simply as a 菜刀, càidāo (not the bone-splitting kind). The proper technique for truly uniform slivers takes time to master, but anyone can learn. Most of the time, we still rely on our mandoline at home. If you don’t own a mandoline or caidao, use a sharp santoku knife.
It’s important to select waxy yellow potatoes for this dish (i.e., not Russet). A lower starch content produces stir-fried potato slivers that are more 脆嫩 (cuì nèn), a quality roughly translated as “crisp and tender.” Either hand-slice or shred the potatoes into long, thin matchsticks.
Soak the shredded potatoes in water for 10 minutes, washing and scrubbing them in at least two changes of water. The starch will turn the water cloudy, so rinse until the water runs clear. You will notice that upon first soak, the shredded potatoes appear limp, but after 5-10 minutes they stiffen up. Set aside to drain as completely as possible.
In a large wok or skillet over medium heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Bloom the 花椒 (huājiāo, Sichuan pepper) in the cold oil until it starts to sizzle. Add the chopped dried chilies. When you can smell the huajiao and chilies, add the sliced garlic and stir-fry until fragrant. Turn the heat up as high as possible and add the shredded potatoes. When they are cooked through, turn off the heat and add in the salt, MSG (optional) and Chinese black vinegar.
It is easy to overcook the potatoes, which will go from crisp to limp. Everyone’s kitchen setup differs, but stir-frying such fine slivers shouldn’t require more than 2-3 minutes. Taste-test, if it’s confirmation you desire—the exterior of the sliver will be slightly soft, while the heart retains a slight crisp. (This is counterintuitive from the perfect French fry.)
A couple notes on vinegar: White rice vinegar is sharper, more acidic and adds less depth to this cooked dish, so we don’t recommend it here. The coloring given by earthy black vinegar is also favored. We found our Baoning 10-year vinegar insufficiently tart and a bit too delicate for this stir-fry, but the 3-year blend works much better. Otherwise, stick to classic Zhenjiang black rice vinegar (often marketed as “Chinkiang”) from eastern China’s Jiangsu Province.
For more easy weeknight vegetable sides, check out some of our other recipes below:
- Spicy Daikon Carrot Salad Liangban
- Gailan with Fried Shallots
- Itty Bitty Baby Boy Choy in Vinegar-Oyster Sauce
- Dry-Fried Green Beans (Ganbian Sijidou)
Sichuan Hot and Sour Shredded Potato (Suanla Tudousi, 酸辣土豆丝)
- 2 large waxy, yellow potatoes, peeled approx. 400 grams
- 1 tablespoon caiziyou (Chinese roasted rapeseed oil)
- ½ teaspoon whole huajiao (Sichuan pepper)
- 3-4 dried chilies, chopped (zidantou preferred)
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- ½ teaspoon salt more or less to taste
- ¼ teaspoon MSG optional
- ½ tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- Shred potato into very thin slivers. While you can use a knife if you have the skill to produce long, thin matchsticks, it's difficult to get them thin enough and properly shaped. A mandoline with "teeth" for shredding, set on the thinnest slicing setting, produces perfectly squared slivers. A food processor with the grating blade also works. A handheld grater produces a ragged, less uniform shred.
- Soak the shredded potatoes in water for 10 minutes, washing and scrubbing them in at least two changes of water. The starch will turn the water cloudy, so rinse until the water runs clear. You will notice that upon first soak, the shredded potatoes appear limp, but after 5-10 minutes they stiffen up. Set aside to drain as completely as possible.
- In a large wok or skillet over medium heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Heat til smoking and let cool (SKIP smoking step if not using caiziyou). Bloom the huajiao in the cold oil until it starts to sizzle. Add the chopped dried chilies. When you can smell the huajiao and chilies, add the sliced garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds or until fragrant. Turn the heat up as high as possible and add the shredded potatoes, stir-frying 2-3 minutes.
- When potatoes are soft on the outside while still slightly crisp in the middle, turn off the heat and add in the salt and MSG (optional). Quickly pour in the black vinegar around the edges of your wok or skillet to avoid getting the potatoes soggy. Toss to combine. Top with the scallions and serve immediately.