Announcing The Mala Project SHOP: Sichuan Specialty Products, Direct From Sichuan
Friends and Family Discount~~
Fong Chong and I are very excited to announce that we have opened an online Mala Project SHOP full of high-quality Sichuan specialty products and ingredients sourced direct from Sichuan. When I started this blog about cooking authentic Sichuan food in America, my goal was to learn to cook for my new daughter from China and make her American life more palatable. I called my efforts the Chengdu Challenge, because I knew both the cooking and the sourcing of real Sichuan ingredients would be a challenge from my home in the middle of the U.S.
Over the past two and a half years, I’ve heard from many of you who also love Sichuan food and want to learn to make it but, like me, often have trouble sourcing the necessary ingredients for doing so. Only a minority of people in the U.S. live near a large Chinese supermarket, and even those who do often find that those stores may not stock Sichuan specialty products, and especially not fresh, high-quality ones. Perhaps most frustrating is finding a source anywhere in the U.S. for the wide range of gorgeous dried chili peppers you see in Sichuan or for premium red and green Sichuan peppercorns with the intense aroma and numbing quality they are meant to have.
Turns out the cooking part of the challenge is not that hard with a little practice; the only thing keeping you and me from making Sichuan food the way it’s made in Sichuan is having the right ingredients to do so. So when the opportunity to source these products direct from Chengdu came to me—and I realized they were better than any other available in the U.S.—I jumped on it.
Note that we are not (yet) selling basic Chinese pantry items used in Sichuan cooking—Chinese light and dark soy sauces, Shaoxing rice wine—because they are relatively easy to find at Asian markets (and, in glass bottles, expensive to ship). But we are sourcing almost everything else you need to make real Sichuan food: premium red and green Sichuan pepper, Sichuan pepper oils, a range of dried chili peppers, chili bean paste made in Pixian county, fermented wheat paste and fermented soybeans (douchi), Yibin yacai preserved vegetable and more.
We’re selling these products individually or as pantry kits that also include Mala Project recipe cards—and make fantastic gifts. The Starter Sichuan Pantry includes four specialty products and two recipes; the Premium Sichuan Pantry includes eight specialty products and four recipe cards; and the Supreme Sichuan Pantry includes 12 specialty products and six recipe cards.
We’ve also created a few “Mala Collections.” Many of you already love “The Godmother,” maker of China’s best chili oils, so we’ve put together a Lao Gan Ma Collection (even though it’s not from Sichuan but from the neighboring province of Guizhou). The collection includes the classic Spicy Chili Crisp and Chili Oil With Black Bean plus the equally addictive LGM spicy preserved cabbage condiment. It also includes our recipe for a Lao Gan Ma black bean stir-fry.
Even though The Mala Project is about cooking Sichuan food from scratch, we know that everyone (including us!) sometimes wants to take a shortcut to Sichuan flavor. That’s why we’re offering a range of really tasty readymade Sichuan sauces from a company in Chengdu. Used by Sichuan chain restaurants across China, the sauces have now been packaged for home cooks in the U.S. You provide the proteins, vegetables, noodles and tofu, and the sauces do the rest! (Well, you still have to cook, but recipes on The Mala Project can help you with the methods.)
In addition to food, The Mala Project SHOP has given us the reason and chance to create something we’ve always wanted: an apron embroidered with the characters for mala—麻, or “má,” refers to the numbing of Sichuan pepper and 辣, or “là,” to the burn of chili peppers. So 麻辣 represents the tingle and thrill of Sichuan cuisine.
We hope this shop will support the community of Sichuan food-lovers that has grown up around our blog and make it easier to try the recipes and join us in the Chengdu Challenge. And we hope you’ll continue to support The Mala Project by shopping with us, allowing us to grow the community and build ever more resources for Sichuan food and cooking.
Let us know what you think and what you’d like to see in the shop. As some of the most-devoted Sichuan cuisine fans, your thoughts and opinions are immensely helpful and will guide us as we launch and build this part of our website.
Finally, to thank you for your early support of The Mala Project, please use the discount code OLDFRIENDS before February 1, 2017, for 10 percent off your first purchase at The Mala Project SHOP. That should carry you through both the American and Chinese holiday seasons, including Chinese New Year (January 28, 2017).
To our many friends outside the U.S.: We haven’t had a chance to figure out international shipping. I fear the prices will be prohibitive, but let us know by email if you’d like us to get a shipping quote for a specific order for your destination.
Thank you for reading and shopping and joining us on this next phase of the challenge.
Taylor and Fong Chong
Update January 2017: We have temporarily withdrawn the pantry kits from the shop due to problems sourcing chili flakes. We will bring them back soon!