Category: Restaurants/Travel

Paocai to the People: At Chengdu Restaurants, Free Homemade Pickles Are the Standard | Jordan Porter

A Pickle a Day~~ By Jordan Porter—Holler out “paocai,” the Chinese word for pickles, at nearly any restaurant in Chengdu and the wait staff will deliver a bowl of delicious homemade pickled veggies to your table. I say nearly, because at some places the communal pickle jar (or urn, or bucket, or box) is self-serve, and you scoop them up on your own.  Either way, a house-made pickle comes standard at every restaurant in the city. The best part? It’s free! Pickled and fermented ingredients, from the famous douban paste...

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...

Chengdu Noodles: Above and Beyond Dan Dan Mian | Jordan Porter

The Straight-up, Lo-down on the Infinite Varieties~~ The Mala Project’s first-ever guest post is by Jordan Porter, owner and chief experience officer at Chengdu Food Tours. A Canadian who has lived in Chengdu since 2010, he began his culinary tour company in 2015 and has since led tours of the streets of Chengdu and the countryside of Sichuan for travelers like you and me and for food VIPs (many of whose articles you probably read, after Jordan schooled them in Sichuan cuisine). As many of you know, I also began my...

Spreading the Sichuan Love: L.A.’s Chengdu Taste

Coming to a City Near You? We Ask the Owners~~ When it’s silent for too long on this end, you know it means Fong Chong and I have been traveling or, in this case, spending our summer in Northeast Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, America’s most progressive Chinese enclave. Without a kitchen while we play in the sun, hang with dear old friends, and Fong Chong goes to summer school, we use the time off from cooking Sichuan to eat other people’s Sichuan cooking and get newly inspired....

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...

Chengdu Challenge #21: Dry Pot Chicken (Gan Guo Ji)

My New Favorite Meal~~ “This is my new favorite restaurant!” my friend Carla used to proclaim almost every time we ate somewhere new in New York. That could be construed as fickle, but really it was just enthusiasm. I feel the same sometimes about these dishes—every one I cook is my new favorite. But this one, particularly, truly, is my new favorite recipe and is likely to stay that way for a while. Why? Because it’s more a method than a recipe, and because  it’s easily and infinitely adaptable to any ingredients...

Inspired by the San Gabriel Valley Part 2: Hot Dishes

The Best of the Best~~ I promise I’m going to get back to cooking and sharing recipes soon, but I have to entice/torture you one more time with the best dishes I had during my summer in Los Angeles. I picked up Fong Chong from summer school everyday and we headed straight for the San Gabriel Valley, a miniature China with the widest array of regional Chinese cuisines to be found in this country. I know this fact thanks partly to the fantastic reporting of Clarissa Wei, a young L.A....

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...

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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