February 2024 Part 2: Sichuan Dipping Chilies and Sichuan Master Stock

February 22, 2024

February 2024 Part 2: Sichuan Dipping Chilies and Sichuan Master Stock

Your New Favorite Condiment

Greetings, Friends of The Mala Market 
Woohoo! It's only taken TWO FULL YEARS, but now everyone's favorite Sichuan chili condiment is back in stock and RIGHT! 

Some of you may remember that we introduced a version of Sichuan Dipping Chilies a few years ago that many of you went gaga over it, but then the Chengdu maker inexplicably changed the formulation for the worse. It took us about a year to find a worthy replacement, and then we accidentally and inexplicably imported the wrong formulation a second time! But here we are finally, with the good stuff!

We're also flush with recipes this week, and super excited to have Kathy's detailed instructions for Sichuan-style master stock. Make it once, and you're set for months or years, with meats and vegetables coming in and out to create an ever richer and more complex braising liquid. Braised meats are most often served as a cold-dish starter. You'll want dipping chilies with those dishes, and we also have a couple other recipes that use dipping chilies as both condiment and recipe ingredient. 
🌶 Taylor & Fongchong 🌶

P.S. There's all kinds of EXTRAS in this newsletter. So keep reading: Our Wirecutter-recommended yin-yang hotpot is back in stock! New-harvest chilies are here! And we are hiring a new editor for our recipe site! 
Sichuan Dipping Chilies (Gan Die)
Sichuan Dipping Chilies (Gan Die)
This irresistible blend of chilies, Sichuan pepper, nuts and numerous other seasonings and secret ingredients is called gan die in Mandarin, meaning dry dish, but a better translation for this condiment in English is chili dip or dipping chilies. It is a spicy, nutty and tingly condiment with just the right amount of umami and heat. 

We tasted many a Sichuan-made formulation for this dip, and not all are created equal. We held out until we found one that stands out! A good gan die is one that tastes great licked straight off your fingers. This one is nicely spicy, but not too hot to enjoy in generous amounts. 
Lushui Sichuan master stock and braised meats

Sichuan Lushui aka Master Stock

Do you know the secrets of Chinese master stock (卤水, lǔshuǐ/lou5seoi2)?

The idea is simple, as Kathy describes it in this new recipe: "Use the same stock for poaching and braising your meats every time, replenishing aromatics and seasoning as needed. The stock concentrates over time with all the flavors that have ever paid a visit. The meats take on the complex flavor of the stock, without you having to recreate that seasoning from scratch every time. And eventually, the whole becomes greater than any of the parts.

While the English title “master stock” is entirely creative (卤水 just means brine), the description captures its range of use. This brine can be used as a stock to cook almost anything you wish. In China, entire shops make their name just selling lushui brined meats/veggies (collectively called 卤味, lǔwèi)."

The real secret is that there is a Chinese brining technique for maximum flavor and tenderness summed up as “三分靠卤,七分靠焖 (sānfēn kào lǔ, qīfēn kào mèn).” This roughly translates to the cooking depending on 30% active brining time (lu) and 70% carryover cooking (men) that occurs while the meat is soaking in the pot, covered, with the fire off.

Check out Kathy's super handy chart showing the lu time and men time for a long list of meats.

In China, luwei are often served sliced and cold as one of the first dishes on the table, a good appetizer to snack on before the hot dishes come (especially if you're drinking). See the assorted cold dishes of beef, chicken feet and pig ear above. Because the broth is flavored, sliced luwei is served plain or dressed with a simple chili oil or dipping chilies.

Salt and pepper squid

Salt and Pepper Squid With Dipping Chilies

It’s the Chinese version of fried calamari, and—if you’re a lover of Sichuan flavors—it’s the best version of fried calamari. In Jiaoyan Youyu, 椒盐鱿鱼, or salt-and-pepper squid, the youyu is lightly battered and fried and then stir-fried with aromatics and a heavy sprinkling of jiaoyan, or pepper-salt.

Jaioyan can be as simple as Sichuan pepper and salt, roasted together and ground to a powder. However, many folks on the Chinese Internet add fennel seeds and sesame seeds to the mix (the version we used in this recipe), and some even add a bit of green Sichuan pepper, white pepper or black pepper. Others may add additional warm spices such as star anise. Once you come up with your preferred blend, jiaoyan can be used as a kind of finishing salt or as a dip for roasted and fried things.

Here we are taking liberties and expanding the definition of pepper to include not only Sichuan pepper but chili pepper, using gandie, or Sichuan dipping chilies, as our finishing dust on top of jiaoyan. They truly complement each other, since jiaoyan is numbing and salty and dipping chilies supply umami and heat. You can use either or both on your fried calamari!

And don't forget to take both jiaoyan and dipping chilies to the table so the mala-heads can double dip. 
Sichuan pork roast with dipping chilies

Hot and Crispy Sichuanish Pulled Pork

I'm sorry I don't have an "after" photo, but when this came out of the oven we dug into it too quickly. This is a variation on my recipe for Sichuanish pulled pork, made Sichuanish by a dry rub of salt, sugar and Sichuan pepper. Though in this variation, the huajiao is replaced by Sichuan dipping chilies! A long, slow roast in the oven, and you get the same crispy, fatty, candied pork but with added chili heat and umami. Sooooo good! 

Make it according to the recipe, except that the dry rub should be just salt and sugar (brined overnight if possible). Then rub the shoulder all over with dipping chilies right before you put it in the oven. 

Serve it tucked into a homemade bao with a quick cucumber pickle for the ultimate treat. 
Orange chicken by Trigg Ferrano

Orange Chicken

Another one of our many talented customers was inspired by one of our new products—aged mandarin peel—to create a mouthwatering version of Chenpi Ji, better known as orange chicken. This American Chinese dish is pretty hard to resist, and especially when made with sun-dried, aged mandarin peel to offset the sweetness with an edge of bitter orange. 

I love this caption from Trigg, who lived in Guizhou Province for two years:

"Orange Chicken as we know it today was invented for @officialpandaexpress in 1987 by a Taiwanese Chef who trained in France and worked at an American company owned by a Chinese-born businessman. It's an incredibly international dish, and reminds me a lot of my own journey through life. Though I'm American, I have influences, relationships, and connections to multiple cultures and countries.. Specifically, France and China… just like ORANGE CHICKEN!!!"

Check out Trigg Ferrano's video on Instagram for the full recipe. You know you want it! 
Sichuan Dried Chili Collection
Sichuan Dried Chili Collection
The new-harvest chilies are so soft and vibrant and lovely. Fresh, fresh, fresh!

Buy them as a set (discounted 10% from individual prices) or individually:
  • er jing tiao, Sichuan's homegrown favorite; low spiciness, strong fragrance, very strong coloring ability; long and slim; only occasionally hot, you can eat this fruity chili in a dish like a vegetable
  • facing heaven zi dan tou, moderate spiciness, strong fragrance, strong coloring ability; Sichuan's everyday all-day workhorse chili
  • xiao mi la, high spiciness, weak fragrance, weak coloring ability; a small chili similar to Thai chili; favored for very spicy dishes
  • deng long jiao, or lantern chili, moderate spiciness and fragrance, a gorgeous, large, round chili