July 2018: Cool Down With Sichuan Spice

July 25, 2018

July 2018: Cool Down With Sichuan Spice

Cool Down With Sichuan Spice

ūüĆ∂¬†we've got hot deals to help with that¬†ūüĆ∂


Just because it's summer doesn't mean you should turn down the spice in your food. It's quite the contrary in hot and humid Sichuan, where chili peppers and Sichuan peppers are embraced in summer for their ability to make you sweat, which in turn cools you down. 

Even if sweating is not your preferred way to cool down, we can all agree that cold or room-temperature dishes are a great way to beat the heat. And we can also agree that dishes without the char of a grill or breath of a wok can use a flavor boost in the form of spices. 

So today we are highlighting four temperature-cool but spicy-hot dishes (plus variations on each of those recipes), along with a sizzling summer sale on products to get you started. 

Wishing you cool but hot summer nights,

ūüĆ∂Taylor & Fong Chong¬†ūüĆ∂

P.S.: We are beyond excited that our first shipment of premium aged Pixian chili bean paste has arrived at the NY port and is on its way to us. This is the first completely handmade, 3-year-old doubanjiang ever to grace American shores. We'll let you know when you can get yours!

Mala cucumbers (qiang huang gua)

Mala Cucumbers

Fong Chong is learning to cook some Chinese dishes this summer‚ÄĒrealizing that she won't live with Mom, aka her personal Sichuan chef, forever. She made these gorgeous cucumbers by herself with no problem from a recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's¬†Every Grain of Rice. The key is to flash-wok the cucumbers in a chili-and-Sichuan-pepper oil just long enough that they absorb the flavors but don't actually cook, a process called qiang.
Qiang Huang Gua
  1. Cut one long, English cucumber in half vertically, scoop out the seeds, and cut into batons about 3 inches long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. Salt generously and leave to drain in a colander for 30 minutes or so.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons oil to a hot wok and immediately add 5 to 6 facing heaven chilies and 1 teaspoon red Sichuan peppercorns.
  3. Stir-fry the spices until they are just starting to darken, then add cucumber and stir-fry briefly so that all cucumbers are exposed to hot oil. Add 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, mix well, and plate. Serve chilled or at room temperature. 
  • Snip chilies in half and retain seeds for heat, or leave seeds¬†out for a milder dish
  • If using Mala Market Sichuan pepper, 1¬†teaspoon should be plenty; if using less potent peppercorns, you may need more

Because there can never be too many cucumber salads, here are three more recipes for Sichuan-style cold cucumber.

Summer Special #1:
1 2-ounce package Big Red Pao Sichuan Peppercorns 
1 4-ounce package Facing Heaven Chilies
Value $19, Summer Special price $15

Sichuan pepper-scallion oil chicken (jiao ma ji)

Sichuan Pepper-Scallion Chicken

This Sichuan pepper-scallion oil chicken was the second recipe I ever tackled on the blog, back in 2014 when I was just beginning my odyssey of learning to cook Chinese food for Fong Chong. Jiao ma ji remains a favorite for both of us, but it gets overlooked on the blog because it's less known than some other Sichuan cold chicken dishes. That's a crime, because this version has a hit of fresh green scallions and green Sichuan pepper to contrast with the warming red chili oil. I have updated the recipe in hopes of enticing you!

If you prefer the old favorites, here's a recipe for kou shui ji, or mouthwatering chicken in chili oil.

Almost all these cold dishes start with homemade chili oil, so we've included the perfect ground chilies for making your own in this special. 

Summer Special #2:
1 2-ounce package Green Sichuan Peppercorns 
1 7-ounce package Fragrant Hot Ground Chilies
Value $20, Summer Special price $15

Hot and sour eggplant (suan la qie zi)

Hot and Sour Eggplant

I worked on this recipe in 2016 so that Fong Chong could have a favorite comfort food (eggplant!) to take for lunch during her first days at a new high school. It worked for her, so it could work for you too. Face that challenge with suan la eggplant!

We recently befriended the women owners of a lovely terrace restaurant in Chengdu and got a recipe for a delicious variation, roasted chili eggplant.

Summer Special #3:
1 2-ounce package Big Red Pao Sichuan Peppercorns 
1 7-ounce package Fragrant Hot Ground Chilies
Value $20, Summer Special price $15

Mung bean noodles (shang xin liang fen)

In case you missed it...

The final cold dish is our most recent recipe on the blog. Mung bean noodles are those wiggly-jiggly, light-as-air¬†noodles that go so well with a spicy-hot Sichuan dressing. We scored the recipe for¬†Liang Fen of Happy Tears¬†from another woman-owned restaurant, a trailblazing¬†dry pot (mala xiang guo) spot¬†in New York's East Village called M√°l√†¬†Project. (That's their dish in the photo.)¬†You'll have to read the post to see why these jelly noodles have¬†earned that colorful name and to learn how to make them from scratch yourself‚ÄĒit's surprisingly easy!