The Mala Project | Cooking Sichuan in America Blog

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 #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 #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 #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...

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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