Category: Veggies

Sichuan’s Naturally Fermented Pickles (Pao Cai)

A Lacto-Fermented Pantry~~ Have you ever tried making pickles without vinegar? There’s a bit of a learning curve involved in letting natural lacto-fermentation sour your vegetables instead of vinegar. But there’s also huge payoff for the effort. Not only in health benefits—fermentation creates good bacteria, or probiotics, that aid in digestion and vitamin absorption—but in culinary benefits as well, since the vegetables taste like sour versions of themselves instead of like vinegar. Now I love a good vinegar quick pickle, but naturally fermented vegetables are useful not just as condiments...

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...

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...

Mala Dry Pot With Cauliflower, Snap Peas and Bacon (Gan Guo Caihua)

Weeknight Dry Pot~~ I’m not sure y’all believed me the first time I shared a recipe for dry pot (gan guo or mala xiang guo), back in September 2015. Perhaps I did not convey how delicious it truly is. Or perhaps it seemed like too much effort. Or perhaps you’d just never heard of it—which is highly possible if you live outside China, where it’s been trendy for years. But dry pot is making its play in the U.S., moving out of the San Gabriel Valley to other places on...

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 #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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Chengdu Challenge #10: Mapo Doufu (Mapo Tofu)

The Queen of Mapo Doufu Recipes~~ Best tofu dish in the world? Mapo tofu, without doubt. You may be thinking that’s not saying much. But it is. In fact, forget that it features tofu. I’ll put this beefy, spicy, chili bean dish up against your favorite American beef-and-bean chili any day. I’ve been making mapo doufu—“pock-marked mother’s bean curd”—for years. It was one of the first dishes I learned from our brilliant chef Qing Qing, who taught Lotus Culinary’s cooking classes at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine in the early...

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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