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 [later renamed The Mala Market] 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.

With the addition of a curated selection of our favorite Chinese pantry essentials, we are sourcing almost everything 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.

Starter Sichuan Pantry

The Starter Sichuan Pantry includes all the ingredients you need to make chili oil, gong bao (kung pao) dishes and chicken with chilies (la zi ji).

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.

Premium Sichuan Pantry

With the Premium Sichuan Pantry, you can make the dishes from the Starter Pantry as well as mapo doufu, dry-fried green beans, twice-cooked pork, and shui zhu (“water-boiled”) fish, among many others.

Supreme Sichuan Pantry

There’s very little you cannot make with the Supreme Sichuan Pantry kit, including stir-fries, cold dishes, noodles and snacks. We include six beautifully printed 5×7 recipe cards to get you started.

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.

Lao Gan Ma Chili Oils Collection

The best of Lao Gan Ma, including chili crisp, black bean oil and spicy pickled cabbage condiment, plus a recipe for a 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.)

Shortcut Sichuan Sauces

These readymade sauces will transport you to Chengdu even without a Sichuan pantry: twice-cooked pork, hot-and-sour noodles, dry pot (mala xiang guo) and mapo doufu.

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.


Sturdy, 100% cotton aprons with embroidered characters for mala—numbing and spicy.

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!



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37 Responses

  1. Christina McNeur says:

    Taylor and Fong Chong, this is so exciting! Your recommendations on Sichuan spices and especially the Laoganma condiments has changed my chinese cooking for the better and I can’t imagine going back. My husband and I lived in China for four years and are Sichuan addicts. I am so glad to see you are starting the online shop as it’s not always easy to find ingredients, even in New York City. Thank you so much for your amazing work!

  2. Susan Connolly says:

    Brilliant! Wishing you the very best in this endeavour. I think you have tapped a market in need. Any idea if you’ll be able to send products to Canada?

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you, Susan! I hope you are right. 🙂

      I would love to sell to Canada, as I have a lot of Canadian readers and Canadians know and love their Chinese food. It’s at the top of my list to see if I can find affordable shipping. Stay tuned!

  3. Peter Banhazl says:

    Hi – this is great! So is your site. The country needs to know real Sichuan food. Have been addicted since my first Chicken with Cabbage from The Good Food of Szechuan in the early 80s. My kids grew up eating Sichuan food. Daughter’s made Ma Po Dofu for her 4th grade Home Ec class. (the kids wouldn’t touch it but the teachers wouldn’t give her container back until they had finished it all). Anyway, it takes a lot of online work (in Boston) to find the right ingredients. So, from now on I’ll restock from you just because. – Peter

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you, Peter! You were officially my second customer. I’ll need this kind of support to make this work, so I really appreciate your order. I knew you longtime Sichuan cooks would get it!

  4. Christopher says:

    Awesome! I wish you the best of luck!

    I just returned from northern China a few days ago where my wife’s family made lots of Sichuan dishes for me. But there they call the Sichuan peppercorn “ma jiao”, not “hua jiao”. They tasted the same to me. Do you know if there is any difference, or just a different name? Thanks!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you, Christopher! Ma jiao, numbing pepper, and hua jiao, flower pepper, are the same things. Just different names. Delicious no matter what you call it! Now that I have so much product around me, I keep Sichuan pepper on my desk, just so I can smell it. 🙂

  5. James Read says:

    This is excellent. Your blog & recipes are a delight to read and cook, and though I live in the UK I’m happy to see you hooking up others with the delicious mala flavours.

  6. Tracy Kane says:

    Congratulations! This is so exciting for you and Fong Chong….and for me (and the rest of us trying our hands at cooking these amazing recipes)!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you, friend, for your support of all my Sichuan endeavors over the years. Can you believe it’s been almost 10 years since you prepped me for that first trip to China?

  7. Kate Mai says:

    Hello from Texas! I am a new convert to Sichuan food, having become addicted to it after eating it at a tiny Houston restaurant several times. I found your site when I decided I wanted to learn to satisfy my craving at home, as we do not live in Houston any longer. While there is a large Asian super in Houston, it’s difficult to find the staples you mention because they are called something else, or do not have any English on the labels at all. So this is great news! I have only attempted one recipe so far, and I was disappointed that my Sichuan peppers tasted sandy in my dish. How can I avoid that? Thanks!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      These are exactly the needs the shop was designed to meet! I hope it proves useful for you in your cooking adventures. I’m not sure why your Sichuan pepper tasted sandy. Are you referring to whole peppercorns or did you grind them? With ground peppercorns, you need to sift the husks out. The whole ones should taste bright and strong–though they are used to flavor dishes, and are not generally eaten. Both the quality and age make a huge difference in Sichuan pepper, so try some really fresh ones such as ours. 🙂

  8. Mark Kolodny says:

    Hi Taylor,
    This looks wonderful. I live in the inner NY suburbs and frequently visit Flushing, Queens Chinatown, but still can’t find half of your offerings. Looking forward to ordering soon.

  9. Ian says:

    Hi Taylor,

    A Mala Project Shop is a fine idea, and I am delighted to hear that your daughter is involved. I moved to Canada recently and find that I can get a pretty good range of supplies at local stores, including douban jiang from Pixian and yacai. But I can’t find good chilis! And the hua jiao varies greatly in quality. I guess I am really writing to encourage you as you try to find a way to ship to Canada. Maybe easier said than done.

    Thanks, as always, for your excellent and most enjoyable website.


    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you, Ian!

      In my first round of research, I learned that the supposedly cheapest way to ship a medium box with $50 of product to Canada would take 6-10 business days Priority Mail and cost $45.95 U.S. So much for NAFTA! There’s got to be a better way. I’ll keep looking!

  10. Betty says:

    I love this! Where were you when I lived in Iowa? I now live where there is a very large Chinese community and a huge Great Wall supermarket, but I sure could have used this when I lived in Iowa. I’m very happy for all the Sichuan food lovers around the country who now have a trusted source for authentic Sichuan ingredients! Thank you for the great blog and the new shop! Congratulations!

    • Betty says:

      I should have added that I love that you provide the names of the dried peppers. I never know what I’m getting at Great Wall and am always worried I am getting Thai chilis that will make my dishes too hot (because I use a lot). Thanks!

      • Taylor Holliday says:

        Thank you for your messages and kind words, Betty!

        You are lucky to live near a Great Wall market. Though as a new store owner, I do have to point out that you will find some of our products there, but you will not find the chili peppers or Sichuan pepper. Chinese supermarkets in the U.S. carry mostly Tianjin or generic Sichuan chilies, which are medium size and medium hot and medium interesting. They are not usually high quality or fresh, having been mass-packaged and mass-distributed many months or even years ago. This is even more the case with Sichuan pepper. We have four different new-crop chili peppers in a range of size and heat that are currently popular in Chengdu, as well as fresh premium red and green Sichuan pepper that is a completely different animal from the store-bought version.

        Having said that, you can make great dishes with the products in Chinese grocery stores. It’s most important to just keep cooking!

        • Betty says:

          I will definitely be ordering from your store! The chili peppers for sure. And I have never been happy with the Sichuan peppers I’ve bought at Great Wall. I have 4 bags because I keep trying to find a brand I like. I can’t wait to try yours. And I will finally have a source for yacai. I haven’t found it at Great Wall, and I can’t even find it on Amazon (and I don’t like to order from them anyway). Last of all, the apron!! It will be my Christmas present to myself!

          • Taylor Holliday says:

            Hi, Betty. You are the first to purchase an apron, and I think you will love it. It looks so awesome in person (if I do say so myself!). Please send me a photo of yourself in it. 🙂 I appreciate your support and enthusiasm.

  11. Brook says:

    Fantastic! Looking forward to trying recipes with ingredients I’ve never been able to source.

  12. Paul Winalski says:

    Wow! Fantastic! I’ve always wanted a source for Facing Heaven chiles. There are lots of kinds of Chinese chiles available locally, but I can’t read Chinese characters and so I can’t be sure just what I’m buying. Ditto with Yibin Suimi Yacai–never could tell which of the various things labeled “Sichuan Preserved Vegetable” was the right one. And although a lot of the Godmother’s products are available here, the Spicy Preserved Vegetable isn’t one of them.

    Good luck with the business, and thanks!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you, Paul, for being one of my first customers! And for being a long-time reader. I really appreciate it, and I hope these products will be what you’re looking for. I think you’ll be very pleased with the chilies, as none at the supermarket compare in freshness and distinctiveness. And there is also no substitute for Yibin Suimi Yacai. Please report back after you try them.

      • Paul Winalski says:

        I used a good handful of bullet chiles in Gong Bao Chicken last night. I’m used to dried red chiles providing heat and flavor, but these also filled the room with a wonderful chile aroma. The freshness really makes a difference.

        I also love my Mala Project chef’s apron. I’m especially impressed by the quality of the embroidering.

        • Taylor Holliday says:

          Thank you, as always, for your comment, Paul. And thanks especially for the early feedback on the products! I am so happy that you are happy with them.

  13. I’m in love with your food, with the way you cook food, story, your writing, everything. My husband and I and our boys are obsessed ‘Sichuanese’ food. So excited that I discovered your project 🙂

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you so much, Shelly! That’s really kind of you to say. And I’m happy to learn about your blog, since I love both “bold vegetables” and the nomadic lifestyle. And Spain! Thanks for reaching out.

  14. Joan says:

    This is great news! I can find many of the ingredients I need in the stores around DC – but I often have to visit more than one to cross everything off my list. Your store is a wonderful addition to my online world!

  15. Steve R. says:

    I just received my spice order. My wife works in China. The last time she came home, she brought me some HuaYuan peppercorns. They were the best I’ve ever had…until now. I always test peppercorns the same way; put one bud in my mouth, chew on it a few times, then remove it. It’s been about 10 minutes now, and my lips and tongue are still tingling. I can’t wait to try the other items I bought. Thank you, and happy holidays.

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thank you, Steve! It is great to get feedback from some of my first customers and see they are as impressed by these Sichuan peppers and chili peppers as I am. I really appreciate your letting me know. Enjoy the Sichuan tingle.

  16. Chris hallinger says:

    My favorite Szechuan restaurant in NYC is on 58st off 3rd Ave. anyone know which one I’m referring too? They have a fresh chili and prawns with minced pork dish. My question is how to make the chillies the way they do. When I buy chills in the supermarket they are green and eventually turn red but the ones used in this dish are not only hot but sweet and fragrant also. They must be pickled in some way. Any idea?!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      I don’t know this restaurant, but it looks like you’re talking about Land of Plenty. Interesting that they have this dish. The red chilies are indeed pickled and are very popular in Sichuan. It is hard to find good ones here in the U.S., which is why I suggest using sambal oelek or making your own from fresh cayenne or fresno chilies.

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

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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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