The Mala Project Is Now ‘The Mala Market Blog’
Change Is Good (in Life and Recipes)~~
Dear friends of The Mala Project,
From now on you’ll be hearing from Fong Chong and me as The Mala Market. It was a tough decision to change the name of our blog, but we’ve heard from too many people that having two different “brands” is overly complicated. So we want to consolidate under one name, and there are at least two good reasons to go with “Market” instead of “Project”: 1) Having the same name as a restaurant in New York called Mala Project causes confusion online, and 2) only one of our brands makes any money and allows us to keep on blogging, and it’s not the Project!
So our new writing and recipe platform is at blog.themalamarket.com. All links that you have saved to themalaproject.com should transition seamlessly to blog.themalamarket.com. But please let us know if you discover any that haven’t! We’re also in the process of changing our social media accounts, which is an even harder slog than changing the blog name, but we should eventually be fully transitioned to The Mala Market.
I finally made peace with this change when I realized that the Project has in many ways been completed. It started as “a challenge to myself to move beyond my usual Chinese recipes and cook my way through my prized collection of Sichuan cookbooks—the rare, the out-of-print, and the printed-only-in-China—which are full of food the way it’s made in Chengdu, my favorite place to eat.”
I did not by any means cook my way all the way through any of them, but I did cook and learn quite a lot from the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine’s cookbook. I still consult and cook from these cookbooks, but more often nowadays I create my own take on Sichuan dishes I have eaten recently in Chengdu and at great Sichuan restaurants in the United States.
Sichuan food, like all living cuisines, changes over time in such a way that no cookbook can keep up.
One example of that is my revised recipe for hui gou rou, or twice-cooked pork, which I first cooked in 2014 according to the SHIC’s recipe. It was fantastic, but since then I’ve realized how it can be even more fantastic. Every time I have this dish in Sichuan, it is crowded with leeks in almost equal amount to the pork. So I’ve reworked my recipe to reflect that (see photo at the top of this post), and it’s oh so much better. I’ve also changed my cooking method a bit, and I almost always serve it with little steamed bao now, as they do in Chengdu. But I haven’t messed with the perfect sauce of fermented-bean flavorings (doubanjiang, sweet wheat paste and preserved black beans).
My other goal with The Mala Project when I began it in 2014 was to learn to cook for my recently adopted teen daughter from China. I have—more or less—accomplished this goal. Putting a Chinese meal on the table most nights still challenges me sometimes, but the goal now has transitioned more to being one of teaching Fong Chong to cook the food of her homeland.
We will continue to publish Sichuan recipes and China food and travel writing just as we always have. But we have another great adventure coming up as we import and brand our own products in the final quarter of this year. That’s a huge and risky endeavor for us, but we’ve had problems with quality variation and inventory shortages when there were too many middlemen.
In fact, let us apologize for currently being out of stock of our most popular product, red Sichuan pepper, and therefore also out of our Mala Collections. Rather than source what’s left of last year’s crop from a source that turned out to be less-than-reliable, however, we are holding off on restocking until our supply of fresh, 2017-harvest Sichuan pepper arrives from Chengdu in a few weeks. Going forward, a direct line to the growers and/or processors of our products and thorough knowledge of the supply chain should allow us to bring you the very best Sichuan specialty products on a consistent basis.
Thank you for your continued patience and support through our learning curve. We’re very proud of the community of Sichuan-food lovers that has coalesced around our blog, and we hope you’ll stick around for the next chapter at The Mala Market!