Tag Archives: szechuan

Málà tāng – Hot and Spicy Soup – 麻辣汤

Málà, which translates to mouth-numbing, refers to the saliva-inducing, buzzing sensation that the Sichuan pepper creates the moment it hits your tongue. It is the essential ingredient to málà tāng (Chinese: 麻辣汤), a type of “DIY hot pot” experience that can be found around the city in various hole-in-the-walls. Typically served from late afternoon to dinnertime, this warming dish might range in ingredients and level of spice–a detail that disproves its misleading name.

A stack of basket sits alongside a large, glass slide-door refrigerator that displays stacks upon stacks of skewered vegetables, fishballs, meats, poultries, eggs, and seafood. There are also various types of noodles, tofu, and bean curd products that can be added to your personal selection. Customers are typically given a baseline price of 8 kuai to be added onto if more ingredients are chosen. Each additional ingredient can range from 0.5-1 kuai for vegetables, carbs and tofu and 2-3 kuai for meats, poultry and seafood.

Ingredients:
The variety of ingredients for the soup can range, but mala tang vendors typically provide everything from poultry, beef and pork meat/innards, a variety of cellophane, rice, and egg noodles, different flavors of fishballs, various forms of tofu/bean curd, octopus, squid, shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, bok choy, various leafy greens, bean sprouts, cilantro, broccoli, cauliflower, and potato. The broth is boiled from pork belly, chicken bones, ginger, Sichuan peppers, and  possibly MSG.

Cooking Method:
After ingredients are chosen and handed to the cook, the ingredients are placed into a wired sieve spoon that is immersed into a boiling pot of broth that becomes infused with more and more flavor as ingredients are added in from various customers’ orders. Once the ingredients are cooked, they are dumped into a bowl and a sprinkle of garlic, chili pepper, chili oil, minced scallions, sesame oil, black vinegar, and crushed Sichuan pepper can go in before the broth is poured in to complete the dish.

History:
Before becoming a popular street food specialty, mala tang was a popular meal eaten among poor travelers and laborers in Sichuan province. It was said to have been a culinary innovation of the fishermen along the Yangtze River. For meals, they would collect stones to make a fire, get water from the river to put inside a crock pot for boiling water, gather wild vegetables for the broth, and create their own sauce to season their soups.

Another tale recounts the story of six old women who made food for the stonemasons as they were building the Leshan Giant Buddha in the Sichuan Province. The women prepared meat and vegetables on a stick and immersed them into the seasoned broth to cook before serving.

Related Cuisine:
Sichuan Cuisine

 

Qiāng Bǐng – Puffy pancake – 羌饼

Commonly sold in wet markets or on the street throughout the day, qiāng bǐng (Chinese: 羌饼) is a thick, savory bread that is fried in a shallow, round pan. Its dough is chewy and slightly crisp on the outside with fragrant and nutty flavors from the minced scallions and sesame seeds. The thickness of the qiang bing can also vary from stand to stand. It is typically served by slice for about 1.5 yuan.

Ingredients:
The dough is made with flour, yeast, water, and salt. It is fried in oil and sprinkled with minced scallions and sesame seeds. A heated, shallow round pan is filled with oil and the dough is cooked on one side. The dough is pushed down to be immersed into the oil and slightly pierced to cook evenly, then flipped. Once the crust is golden on both sides, the bread is removed from the pan, sprinkled with minced scallions then left to cool before served.

Cooking Method:
A mixture of flour, yeast, warm water, and salt are combined and then set aside under a damp towel to rest and rise. After the dough has expanded, flour is sprinkled onto a flat surface and the dough is rolled out and shaped into a large circle. The dough is brushed with oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds. A heated, shallow round pan is filled with oil and the dough is cooked on one side. The dough is pushed down to be immersed into the oil and slightly pierced to cook evenly, then flipped. Once the crust is golden on both sides, the bread is removed from the pan, sprinkled with minced scallions then left to cool before served.

History:
The word “Qiang” from qiang bing comes from the Chinese minority, Qiang’zu, from the Tibetan and Sichuan Provinces. Their existence is slowly declining due to its lack of popularity among locals, which can most likely be explained by people’s preference to thinner crepe-like bings that are made fresh.

Possible Variations:
jiu cai hezi – stuffed with chinese chives
nuo mi hezi  – stuffed with glutinous rice
jianbing 煎饼– Chinese-style crepe
cong you bing 葱油饼– scallion pancakes
shou zhua bing 手煎饼– hand-grabbed pancake
jidan bing 鸡蛋饼– egg pancake
qian ceng bing 千层饼– flaky pancake

Related Cuisine:
Sichuan Cuisine