Category: Starters/Snacks

Inspired by Houston’s Mala Sichuan Bistro: Mala Beef Jerky (Mala Niu Rou Gan)

Award-Winning Sichuan~~ A few days ago, Jianyun Ye, the chef at one of my favorite Sichuan restaurants, Houston’s Mala Sichuan Bistro, was nominated for a James Beard Award as Best Chef Southwest. Two other Chinese chefs working in authentic Sichuan restaurants owned by Mainland Chinese restaurateurs also got regional Best Chef nods for 2017: Ri Liu at Atlanta’s Masterpiece (which we visit frequently) and Wei Zhu of Chengdu Gourmet in Pittsburgh. Check out those locations. Not NYC, SF or LA, but Houston, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Dare I believe that all...

Introducing Chengdu Zajiang Noodles (Zajiang Mian)

Just Don’t Call It Zhajiang Mian~~ As we learned in the recent guest post from Chengdu Food Tours’s Jordan Porter, zajiang mian is one of Chengdu’s most popular noodles, a bigger, heartier cousin of dan dan noodles and more-loved than its little cousin in modern Chengdu. I promised at the time to work on the recipe, and here are the results. But first, I want to share my closer-to-home inspiration: the zajiang mian at Mian, a real-deal Sichuan/Chongqing noodle shop in L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley. Opened by Tony Xu, chef-owner of the...

Sichuan Cucumber Three Ways: Hot-and-Sour, Mala and Sesame (Pai Huang Gua)

Cool as a (Spicy) Cucumber~~ Sichuan knows how to treat a cucumber: with spice! Here are three cucumber preparations, using three different forms of chili pepper, and resulting in three very different tastes. The first is hot-and-sour and similar to a Western quick pickle with the addition of pickled or fresh red chilies. The second is mala, the smacked cucumber smacking strongly of that incomparable toasty chili and tingly Sichuan pepper taste that makes mala so addictive. And the third is so flavor-packed with chili oil, sesame paste and yacai preserved vegetable that it...

Chengdu Challenge #28: Hot-and-Sour Eggplant Salad (Suan La Liang Ban Qie Zi)

Eggplant, a Girl’s Best Friend~~ What to send to school in your daughter’s lunchbox when she’s changing high schools as a sophomore and facing a lunchtime cafeteria where she knows no one and has no one to eat with? Her favorite vegetable, of course. The vegetable that makes her feel happy as she eats it no matter what is going on around her or how alone she feels. For Fong Chong, that vegetable is eggplant. Now, I’d rather go over there and eat lunch with her in that crowded school...

Chengdu Challenge #26: Pork Rib Noodle Soup With Sichuan-Style Broth (Sichuan Paigu Mian)

My Favorite Mistake~~ This is one of those recipes that is the result of a beautiful mistake. I was merely attempting to make Sichuan-style stock when I ended up with an entire soup. My daughter has been mostly deprived of one of her favorite foods—homemade soup—because I don’t particularly like or crave soup and just don’t ever think about making it. She grew up in China eating freshly made wonton soup every morning for breakfast at school. I grew up in Oklahoma eating Campbell’s chicken noodle soup out of a can—and...

Chengdu Challenge #23: Tiger Skin Peppers (Hu Pi Qing Jiao)

Culinary Travel Week~~ Above is a photo of one of my most memorable meals ever in Chengdu. What you see is a big plate of tiger skin peppers accompanying a quintessential gong bao (kung pao) chicken. What you don’t see is that this was in a restaurant with a Cultural Revolution theme. There’s a recent trend of Cultural Revolution restaurants in China—and even in the San Gabriel Valley in the U.S.—but this was 2007, and this restaurant was as much about memory as kitsch. The owner had been sent to the...

Inspired by the SGV’s Chengdu Taste: Chengdu Fried Rice (Chengdu Chao Fan)

Fong Chong Can Cook~~ Of the many things that inspired us on our many visits to the famed Chengdu Taste in the San Gabriel Valley this past summer, the simplest—and simplest to recreate—was their Chengdu Fried Rice. It has just three main ingredients: eggs, scallions and yacai. Their version took our favorite style of fried rice—loaded with lots of big chunks of egg—and supercharged it with lots of yacai, Sichuan’s go-to preserved vegetable. Yacai doesn’t have the sour bite or texture of a pickle, like the better known “Sichuan preserved...

Chengdu Challenge #22: ‘Saliva’ (Mouthwatering) Chicken (Kou Shui Ji), or Bobo Chicken, or Bang Bang Chicken, or…

You Know You Want It: ‘Saliva’ Chicken~~ Which name do you prefer for Sichuan cold chicken in red-hot chili oil? Saliva chicken (let’s translate it as “mouthwatering” chicken)? Bobo chicken? Bon bon chicken? Bang bang chicken? Or just plain old cold chicken? From what I can tell from multiple Sichuan restaurants, cookbooks and the Web, the names are almost interchangeable, and there’s no real consensus on the ingredients and proportions in each. They are all based on homemade, high-quality chili oil (hong you), of course, and from there include varying...

Inspired by the San Gabriel Valley: Best Sichuan in the U.S.?

The Only Minority in the Restaurant~~ By way of explanation for the paltry number of recent posts, I mentioned last time that Fong Chong and I are living in Los Angeles for the summer. Or Pasadena, to be exact. I also noted that we are spending the majority of our time eating our way through the San Gabriel Valley, the epicenter of Los Angeles’s Chinese community and the vanguard of Chinese food in America. Several of the SGV’s cities are majority Chinese, so the only minority in the restaurant is often me. Not...

Inspired by Manhattan’s Cafe China: Quick Sichuan Pickled Vegetables (Sichuan Paocai)

In a Pickle~~ Life has gotten in the way of serious cooking recently. And of blogging too, you may have noticed. You know how that it is, I’m sure, when there’s little time to do even the things you most love to do. For me over the past month, there was Fong Chong’s graduation from middle school, multiple family birthdays, a trip to New York and, finally, a temporary move to Los Angeles. Not that I’m complaining! A summer in L.A. brings infinite eating rewards—especially since we’re staying only minutes from the...

Chengdu Challenge #19: Cold Noodles With Shredded Chicken (Ji Si Liang Mian)

White Cloud in a Perfect Storm~~ Fong Chong’s latest obsession is these Cold Noodles With Shredded Chicken. It’s a regretfully boring name for something so singularly, aggressively tasty, so you’ll have to take my word for it—you really want to try this. Cold noodles with chicken totally deserves a more poetic name, like Ants Climbing a Tree, another beloved Sichuan noodle. Something like, perhaps, White Cloud in a Perfect Storm. Or maybe not. But just don’t let the boring name fool you. Especially since cold noodles with chicken is quick and...

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...

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Do you love Sichuan food and cooking as much as we do?

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive notice of new recipes and articles from the blog as well as occasional news and promotions from The Mala Market, our Sichuan specialty food shop. (An average of two emails total per month.)

 

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Thank you!

Taylor & Fong Chong