July 2019: Sourcing Sichuan and Recipe for Suan La Fen

July 25, 2019

July 2019: Sourcing Sichuan and Recipe for Suan La Fen

Sourcing Sichuan

Hello, Friends of The Mala Market!

We're leaving you with a couple of excellent (and easy!) recipes before we take off on a Sichuan sourcing trip at the beginning of August. If you're one of those people who doesn't like stories with your recipes, then just skip on down to the bottom when you click on the links. But these are not stories just for the sake of storytelling. In one post I take the momentous occasion of Fongchong's graduation from high school as a chance to reflect on where she's been and where she's going through one of her favorite dishes: suan la fen, or sour and spicy sweet-potato-noodle soup. In the other post, I pass on what I learned about the little-known (for most of us) Teoswa cuisine from Diana Zheng. Her fascinating cookbook Jia! The Food of Swatow and the Teochew Diaspora connects a lot of the dots between Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines and leaves us with an inspired recipe for Chinese greens

We have our sights set on some exciting products—starting with Sichuan's famed Baoning vinegar and Zhongba soy sauce—and plan to visit their factories to see how they're made. We're also closing in on an organic, stone-ground sesame paste that will be a game-changer for making Chinese noodles and cold dishes. Even though produced in modern factories, all of these products are still made in traditional ways, often in earthen crocks like the ones pictured above that hold Sichuan Pixian Douban Co.'s fermenting black soybeans (douchi). We were not able to purchase douchi last year because the company did not have export permission for them from the Chinese government. But now they do! Things change quickly in China and Chinese trade, and we'll continue to bring in the best of the best of Sichuan products as it becomes possible (in spite of the exorbitant tariffs). 

What new products would you most like to see in The Mala Market? Hit reply and let us know! 

🌶Taylor & Fongchong 🌶

P.S. Unfortunately, we will have to "close" again during our travels and will fill any orders placed between July 30 and August 12 as soon as possible upon our return. We hope to have other fulfillment solutions in place soon and never have to close up shop again. 

Suan la fen (sour and spicy sweet potato noodles

Suan La Fen

If you've been wondering what to do with your green Sichuan pepper or green Sichuan pepper oil (rattan oil), then look no further than this beloved and buzzy soup noodle from Chongqing, a city where the love of hua jiao is even stronger than it is in Chengdu. Suan la fen is sour and spicy and numbing and features our current-favorite noodles—chewy, glassy sweet potato threads. Another plus? It can easily be made vegetarian or vegan.

Sichuan pepper sorter and cleaner

Super Clean Sichuan Pepper Machine

Speaking of Sichuan pepper, here we have a state-of-the-art Sichuan pepper cleaner and sorter, newly acquired by our supplier in Chengdu. The design is much the same as the old ones we saw in his factory, in that the peppercorns move down through several layers of the machine, which shakes, filters and sorts out the twigs, thorns and seeds. I'm not sure what all the bells and whistles here do, but by the time the peppercorns have made it through all the layers of this new model, they rarely require hand-sorting.

The result is that the most recent shipment of red Hanyuan pepper we received in June is squeeky clean, with almost no seeds. If you bought Hanyuan pepper from us in the fall when it was more inconsistent and are unhappy with the amount of seeds, just let us know you'd like a replacement. We don't want anyone to miss out on the lovely flavor of Hanyuan pepper, so different from our Big Red Pao standard bearer but equally as intriguing and potent. 

Gai lan with fried shallots

Gai Lan With Oyster Sauce and Fried Shallots

Both healthy and irresistible, this boiled Chinese broccoli is topped with premium (gluten-free) oyster sauce and lots of crispy fried shallots. This recipe from Jia! The Food of Swatow and the Teochew Diaspora is one of many in this charming cookbook that exemplifies the ties between the Chaoshan region of Guangdong province and Southeast Asian food.