You Cooked It!: Sichuan Dishes by Our Readers and Shoppers
Happy Anniversary to Us~~
The Mala Project turns three years old this month, and I am celebrating by thinking of all the dishes YOU have made from our recipes over that time. I would never have stuck with this time-consuming sideline if not for your genuine enthusiasm and support for the effort. It started out as a labor of love, and you have made it even more so.
So, a couple of weeks ago I invited readers to send me photos of dishes they’ve made using Mala Project recipes and/or Mala Market products. I bribed you with a promise of a contest and a drawing for one of our cool Mala Aprons. I knew I was going to get some good reader photos, but I was blown away by the range of dishes you’ve tried and the stories you shared about them.
Jason Stickler sent the photos above of a New Year’s Eve Sichuan feast he made on his friend’s farm, Kalaluna, in Colombia. He went through all our recipes, planned his menu and had his Sichuan ingredients shipped from the U.S. to South America just for the occasion! As well as the dishes on that magical table (don’t you wish you had been there?), some of Jason’s favorites include (as pictured) yu xiang eggplant, jiao ma chicken (in Sichuan pepper-scallion oil) and shui zhu (“water-boiled”) beef. Jason happens to be a CIA grad and professional baker, but he said that, “in the big picture, after you get the ingredients, I think the recipes are very straight forward for anyone.”
Jason wins the Mala Apron for the most inspiring Sichuan story.
One thing I learned from this giveaway is that mapo doufu is clearly your favorite dish to make. I loved seeing the many faces of mapo doufu: ingredients by Norry Hoshikawa and dishes by (clockwise) Spike Fullerton, Norry, Joel Ferris and Joan Kornblith. I’m also happy to say that longtime reader Norry is the lucky winner of a Mala Apron from the drawing.
I was planning to give away only two aprons—one from a blind drawing and one for the best effort—but I had a really hard time picking the best effort. Hudson Hoen and his son Hudson were the original inspiration for this contest through photos they sent me of their interpretation of my mapo doufu recipe. After I announced the contest, they then got together with their family and friends in Florida and made several more Mala Project recipes. This wonderful effort also wins an apron. How could it not?
Here’s how the senior Hudson described their dinner:
Inspired by our previous successes with two of your recipes and your Sichuan ingredients (mapo doufu and gong bao chicken with cashews), we decided to pull out the stops and tackle four different dishes! My son (Hudson IV) invited another couple to join us for dinner. The husband, Ed, is a very accomplished cook, and when we told him what we were up to, he jumped right in. So, the three men were the chefs. Hudson’s wife, Kris, rolled her eyes. She knew what was coming–total destruction of her kitchen. She and Ed’s wife, Aimee, took my two granddaughters and went for a walk so they wouldn’t have to witness the carnage.
We used a number of ingredients that Hudson had ordered from your market in February, and a packet of your Mala Dry Pot spice and homemade smoked bacon that I brought with me. Here’s what we did…
Pork Rib Noodle Soup With Sichuan-Style Broth (Sichuan Paigu Mian): I think you really nailed it with the Pork Rib Noodle Soup recipe—what a lucky “accident”! Our butcher was happy to bandsaw the ribs into smallish piece for us. We all loved the soup.
Mala Dry Pot With Cauliflower, Snap Peas and Bacon (Gan Guo Caihua): The Mala Dry Pot was my favorite. I loved the mix of flavors and textures. When he lived in Wilmington, Delaware, my son had bought some pork bellies in Philadelphia’s Chinese Market, and smoked them to make some absolutely wonderful, smoky bacon. I still had a slab vacuum-sealed and frozen, so I brought it with me to use in the Mala Dry Pot. It made all the difference!
Lao Gan Ma Black Bean Chicken: A total success—everyone loved it, especially Kris, as she doesn’t like spicy-hot food.
Yu Xiang Pork (Yu Xian Rou Si): Another crowd-pleaser. The Zhenjiang black rice vinegar gives it a lovely tang.
We had a great time cooking these dishes, and a better time eating them!
While other readers did not send photos of entire Sichuan spreads, they did send some delicious-looking dishes: (clockwise from top left) yu xiang pork by Mark Stricklan; a dry pot creation of their own design using our Dry Pot Sauce by Juli Aulik and Troye Shanks; gong bao lotus root by Josh Chopak; dan dan noodles by Jason Stickler; and hot and spicy beef by Spike Fullerton.
I don’t know about you, but I am truly impressed by all of the readers here and all of the others who have written me over the past three years sharing their stories, photos and love of Sichuan food and cooking. Fong Chong and I sincerely thank you and look forward to many more “shared” meals with you.