Category: Meat/Fish

Chengdu Challenge #20: Stir-Fried Bacon in Sichuan Bean Sauces (Chao Larou)

Once-Cooked Pork~~ Stir-fried bacon in Sichuan bean sauces is a cousin to hui guo rou, or twice-cooked pork, and in many ways, the more appealing cousin, because A) You only have to cook it once; and B) it’s bacon! It  may be the less popular cousin in Sichuan, but it’s definitely a Sichuan native, and I’ve had it there several times, made with the highly smoked, supremely rich local bacon (larou). For authentic twice-cooked pork, you have to boil a pork belly, chill it, slice it and stir-fry it. For this...

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...

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...

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...

Chengdu Challenge #12: Shui Zhu Beef (or Fish) (Shui Zhu Niu Rou)

A Sichuan Outlaw~~ Shui zhu, or “water-boiled” dishes, may be Sichuan’s most notorious food—feared and loved in equal measure. Shui zhu’s reputation as a dish for the daring precedes it. But those brave enough to dip into its sea of mala—chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorn—to fish out a piece of buttery soft beef (or pork, or fish) are rewarded with the realization that shui zhu is not nearly as lethal as its reputation. It was a shocking sight the first time I saw Chef Qing Qing make shui zhu beef at...

Chengdu Challenge #11: Dry-Braised Shrimp With Crispy Pork (Gan Shao Xia)

Unusual Juxtapositions Bring Unusual Compliments~~ In America, everything’s better with bacon on it. In Sichuan, everything’s better with crispy-brown ground pork. You might think, as I did, that big fresh shrimp don’t need the added attraction of a crispy pork topping. But you’d be wrong, as I was. This is a fantastic combination, bumped up by earthy-salty yacai (pickled mustard greens) and pickled hot chili peppers. It’s really like two dishes in one. First, you get your hands in there to remove the shells from the fat, juicy shrimp—licking the...

Chengdu Challenge #8: Twice-Cooked Pork (Hui Guo Rou)

Pork Belly: The Secret to a Long Life~~ Though hui guo rou  is actually quite easy to make, it challenged me more than any other dish so far. I had to test it so many times that “twice-cooked pork” became dozen-times-cooked pork before I got it right. But just as I did, I was rewarded with this news story* about Sichuan’s oldest living resident, a 117-year-old woman who attributes her longevity to three meals a day of hui guo rou. Pork belly and Pixian bean paste is really all it takes to...

Chengdu Challenge #7: Golden Chicken Stew (Huang Men Ji)

Caramel, Wine and Ginger Make Stew Sexy~~ Recently we had a Chinese friend stay with us for a week who doesn’t eat spicy food. Not even a little. And this was a real challenge for me, since almost everything I make has at least a hint of spice. But we adapted that week and still ate well. I just had to call on all the dishes I make that aren’t spicy, starting with this one for Shoaxing wine and ginger chicken stew, more poetically called golden chicken stew, which has intense chicken...

Chengdu Challenge #5: Potato, Green Chili and Pork Stir-fry (Yang Yu Qing Jiao Chao Rou Si)

All-American Ingredients Make an All-Chinese Stir-fry~~ Yes, the potato is a Chinese vegetable! In fact, it is the star of this stir-fry, the main attraction, with the pork in a supporting role. In Sichuan you most often see potatoes cut in matchsticks and quickly stir-fried with a hit of vinegar. They’re just barely cooked, really, still crunchy and crisp, and as weird as that sounds to a Westerner, they are delicious. This recipe for a similarly prepared potato stiry-fry just fills it out with pork slivers and green chili peppers to...

Chengdu Challenge #4: Good-Luck Fish Head (Hao Yun Yu Tou)

Lucky in Fish, Unlucky in Friendship~~ “I have a weird request for you,” I said to Hobo Mike, a commercial fisherman and the head fishmonger at my local Whole Foods.  “I need a giant fish head. No body. Just head.” “That’s not weird,” he replied. “Lots of people ask me for fish heads. I’ll put you on the waiting list.” “Cool,” I said. “But in that case, I’d like to place an order, because I don’t want just any old little snapper or salmon head. I need the biggest fish...

Chengdu Challenge #2: Cold Chicken in Sichuan Pepper-Scallion Oil (Jiao Ma Ji)

The Jiao Ma Ji Challenge~~ For the most part, chicken is chicken. But jiao ma paste, now that’s a discovery! Jiao ma refers to Sichuan pepper, and the paste is made by mincing the peppercorns together with a load of scallions and adding oil to make a sauce. Combine that with red-hot chili oil and Sichuan pepper oil and a little starter of cold chicken is the most exciting thing on the table. That’s what’s so brilliant about Sichuan cuisine. It has a million ways to make plain old protein...