Tagged: chili pepper

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...

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 #27: Gong Bao Chicken With Cashews (Gong Bao Ji Ding)

The Do’s and Don’ts of Kung Pao~~ The Mala Project turns two years old this month. It hasn’t made me rich or famous (far from!), but that wasn’t the goal. The immediate goal when I started it was to be a better mom to my immigrant daughter by being a better Sichuan home cook. I did it in blog form because I thought that if I committed publicly I’d be far more likely to stick with it. And it worked! Two years on, I’m a much better Chinese cook and...

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 #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...

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...

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...

Chengdu Challenge #14: Xinjiang Cumin Lamb (Zi Ran Yang Rou)

The Mystery of ‘Sichuan Cumin Lamb’~~ Happy Year of the Sheep! No one in my family is a sheep, so this Chinese New Year just makes me think of food, and, more precisely, of lamb. It also gives me the perfect excuse to try to solve one of the biggest mysteries about Sichuan restaurants in America: Why do they always feature cumin lamb? Cumin lamb is not a Sichuan dish. Traditional Sichuan restaurants in Sichuan don’t serve lamb, and they rarely use cumin. And you won’t find a recipe for cumin lamb in any Sichuan cookbook. But every...