Author: Taylor Holliday

Chengdu Challenge #18: Mala Crawfish Boil (Mala Xiao Longxia)

Let the Good Times Roll~~ It’s crawfish season in the U.S. South, and that can mean only one thing (to me): It’s time to try the Mala Crawfish recipe in Sichuan Cuisine in Both Chinese and English. I love a good New Orleans-style crawfish boil—where they boil the crawdads in a spicy broth, mound them up on a newspaper-covered table and invite you to dig in for the feast—so I figured Sichuan crawfish had to be just as fun and delicious. While Louisiana farms the vast majority of crawfish eaten in the world, Asia...

We’re in The (Awesome) Cleaver Quarterly

Did you know there’s a great new(ish) print magazine about Chinese food and Chinese food only? The Cleaver Quarterly comes out of Beijing, but it’s written in English, because, as the founders note, Chinese food is a global phenomenon. I am happy and proud to be included in Issue #4, which just came out. The editors take a wide view of Chinese cuisines and culture, which means they published my quite long, very personal and slightly political essay about my daughter’s first trip back to her village in China since her...

Chengdu Challenge #17: Chongqing Chicken With Chilies (La Zi Ji)

Hot Chicken~~ Below is a photo of the very first plate of Chongqing chicken—sometimes called la zi ji, or just chicken with chilies—I ever had. It was in Chengdu in 2007, in a famous, upscale restaurant. When the server put it down on the table, my husband and I broke into nervous laughter as we saw chunks of fried chicken sitting under an avalanche of dried chili peppers. If we were sweating now, we thought, wait until we try to polish this dish off so as not to embarrass ourselves...

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...

Chengdu Challenge #16: Dry-Fried Green Beans (Gan Bian Si Ji Dou)

Old-School vs. New~~ Yes, I know it seems wrong to deep-fry green vegetables, but oh, it tastes so right. Gan bian si ji dou 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 gan bian si ji dou in Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook calls for dry-frying the green beans the old-school way, for more than two...

Chengdu Challenge #15: Dumplings in Red Oil (Zhong Shui Jiao)

It’s All About the Sauce~~ If you’ve ever had 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 siu mai of its own, only Sichuan floats its famous shui jiao 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 know you...

Roasted Potatoes in Black Bean Sauce

Food52~~ 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 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 sauce; as the...

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. 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 Best New Voice category. Nominations...

Making Hong You #2: Crispy Shallot Chili Oil

Homemade Lao Gan Ma~~ 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 Lao Gan Ma 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...

Chengdu Challenge #14: Xinjiang Cumin Lamb (Zi Ran Yang Rou)

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 Sichuan cookbook. But every...

Meeting Lao Gan Ma, “The Godmother”: China’s Best Chili Oils and Sauces

Godmother to the Rescue~~ Eleven-year-old Fong Chong 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 Fong Chong remained quiet and standoffish, unsure about everything,...

Chengdu Challenge #13: Kung Pao Lotus Root (or Potato) (Gong Bao Ou Pian)

The Unbearable Easiness of Real Kung Pao~~ Everybody knows kung pao chicken—called gong bao ji ding in China—but did you know that you can kung pao other foods as well? My personal favorite vegetable given the gong bao 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 method.) Dare...